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 West Bloomfield Supervisor Steven Kaplan has discussed some of the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

West Bloomfield Supervisor Steven Kaplan has discussed some of the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

WB supervisor discusses potential financial effects of pandemic

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 16, 2020


WEST BLOOMFIELD — The township has enjoyed some robust times over the years, but Supervisor Steven Kaplan recently acknowledged that, like so many other communities, “we’ve been affected” by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaplan said the township receives approximately $5.9 million annually from the state of Michigan for revenue sharing, which is based on sales taxes.

That source of revenue has been reduced by the pandemic.

“In light of the pandemic, businesses have been closed or not fully open, and that will result in a reduction in sales taxes,” Kaplan said. “So we don’t know what deficiency we will incur. It could be a million dollars. This is paid quarterly by the state to the township, city or village. This could be 20%, might be 25%. So what do we do?”

Kaplan has contemplated some of the options available to the township. One of those options could be to take from the township’s fund balance, or “rainy day” fund.

“Can we take from our fund balance? Sure. We have a healthy balance,” Kaplan said. “Or maybe not filling positions; maybe reducing a position that’s vacant. So there are ways. … You do what you can to make up for the lost revenues.”

Despite not receiving as much money as previously expected, Kaplan said, “we’re not in a danger zone.”

“We’ve been very careful,” he said. “We’ve budgeted carefully. We’re lean and mean. … Our salaries and benefits are above average for communities in the tri-county area, but we’re prudent in spending money.”

With much less money than expected coming in, some residents may be concerned that they will be asked to make up the difference, but Kaplan said, “the township board is averse to raising the millage rate.”

“We haven’t raised the millage rate, as far as I know, for 30 years,” he said. “Let’s assume, though, that we had unanticipated expenses that we can’t recoup. So, what happens? Either we reduce staffing or we spend money from our fund balance, or a combination thereof.”

The West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved the 2020 budget in December.

According to a previous report, the 2020 budget includes the approval of 37 funds. The main governmental funds are the general fund and the public safety fund. The total estimated revenue for these funds was $61.8 million. Total estimated expenditures were $64.4 million. The general fund itself clocked in at $24.7 million in revenues and $27.3 million in expenditures.

The township’s fund balance beginning Jan. 1 was $23.2 million for the general fund and $381,000 for the public safety fund, and the township then projected that the ending fund balance would be $22.7 million for the general fund and $325,000 for public safety. Kaplan said that the federal government has allocated funds for municipalities for COVID-related expenses. To receive some of those funds, he said, the township needs to provide documentation, which “involves an abundance of work on the part of the finance staff.”

“The township board is zealous about seeking reimbursement or restitution from the federal government,” Kaplan said. “The federal government is not providing dollar-for-dollar, so if we can show we had $10 million in expenses, they’re not giving us $10 million. It’s a percentage; certainly less than half. We’re working on that now.”

Despite all that has come with the pandemic, Kaplan said, the public can depend on “full and competent” services five days per week.

“Despite the continuation of the pandemic, West Bloomfield has opened all of its buildings to the public, and we are providing full services in the same fashion as the pre-pandemic era,” he said.