Wabash Township Budget 2022

Office of Wabash Township Trustee
July 27, 2021

Wabash Township Board Meeting Statement
Tuesday July 27, 2021
This is the first of eight meetings of the 2022 budget. I will be attending all eight of these board meetings but will have legal counsel and therefore participate in three. 8/11/2021, 9/7/2021, 9/21/2021. The budget will be uploaded 9/23/2021.

Thank you so much for joining and for your passionate participation in government! As we go into the 2022 budget process and in light of recent events involving the Township Fire Protection, it is important we recommit ourselves to the process that we took an oath to uphold. At the onset of my candidacy and throughout my time in office, I have been committed to transparency and to driving fiscal responsibility for our Township. I am still committed to the same.

As far as priorities in relation to fire protection, I want full time firefighters to have health insurance and retirement benefits. I want volunteer firefighters to have the equipment, uniforms, training and support they need to do the best job they can for the residents of Wabash Township. The unfortunate reality is that the Township has spent beyond its means for years prior to my coming into office and we are now at a point where we must work together to devise a strategy for the short- and long-term financial stability of the Township.

I am extremely grateful for the dedication of our firefighters and have respect for the work they do. I also appreciate that the issues related to fire protection engender passion on every side, which we have seen play out in public comment and over social media. As elected officials, we must find a way to channel that passion to finding a solution, not costing the Township tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and not further incensing an already fraught situation.

Fire Department Update

On Monday, June 28, 2021 I received notice that the Wabash Township Fire Department Association had filed a lawsuit to stop me from terminating full time paid staff and that an injunction hearing was set for that afternoon. Between then and Friday, July 23, 2021, the Township incurred over $14,000 in attorneys’ fees defending this lawsuit. This $14,000 could have been used for roughly 400 hours of pay for full time staff. 400 hours! That is 3 people for a month. Rather, that money has now gone to our legal counsel.

I began a process in April of 2021 to present the fire department a proposal to create a Fire District that our Township financial counsel has spent the last several months putting together. We spent approx. $13,000 just last year putting this plan together to present to the fire department. Again, this money could have been used to provide another month of staffing. Rather, that money is now gone. I have asked the fire department to sit down and discuss this issue and it’s solutions since April. To date they have refused to have this plan presented to them for discussion. It is unacceptable that we can not get this conversation scheduled and I look forward to hearing from the association counsel this week on dates and times that work.

I am committed to finding a solution, have worked toward the same, and will continue to do so. The door is open for the Fire Association to participate in the process. Rather than work through that process, we have been stuck at the starting line. It is time to move forward. The Township implores the fire association to come together for a conversation about the long-term health and financial stability of the Township.

At the end of the day, regardless of what is in the media or what people discuss across political lines, I am the trustee of Wabash Township. I will get the Wabash Township Fire Department moving forward with a long term sustainable financial plan with or without the participation of those volunteering to serve. We have a job to do for approximately 30,000 people (60,000+ when you include our mutual aid partners) who depend on us to show up and do the best job we can.

Next Steps:

The WTVFD has until Aug 6th, 2021 to schedule a meeting to discuss 2022 budget.
The Wabash Township Board will receive a recommended budget with/without association contract. September 7th, 2021
The Wabash Township Board will vote on a budget and association contract. September 21st, 2021

Township Assistance Update

In 2020, the Indiana State Rental Assistance Program stepped in with covid relief to our township of over $200,000. In 2021 that program received an even larger amount of stimulus money. As directed in the township assistance guidelines, outlined and approved by the board we have continued to direct all individuals in need of rental or utility assistance to this state program. So far to date everyone seeking assistance has been approved under this program. I have been saving our township assistance dollars to be utilized once this program has concluded and the eviction moratorium has been lifted. Our social service partners have suggested this plan of action and I agree that we need to be ready if a large portion of our population becomes displaced. I provided the board with my recommendations for updating the guidelines in Feb and stand by that recommendation today. I look forward to hearing the board’s ideas. We do not have access to any data from this program but I am sure you can request it from the state if you are interested.