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posted: 5/4/2013 8:00 AM

Rutland Twp. trustee denies playing politics with budget

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  • Steve Schuldt

      Steve Schuldt

  • Margaret Sanders

      Margaret Sanders

 
 

While some Rutland Township authorities have accused Trustee Steve Schuldt of playing politics with the road commissioner's budget, Schuldt says he's closely watching township finances.

He said his other goals are to make sure the township follows legal procedures and to neutralize potential conflicts of interests among three family members in township government -- Howard Schultz is the road commissioner, his wife, Debra, is the township clerk and his mother, Katherine, is a township trustee.

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Howard Schultz pointed out his wife and mother will no longer be in township government after May 20 because they both lost their spring election.

And because his mother is the only one of the three who actually votes, he also disputes the notion that a conflict exists.

"A conflict of interest is if you have three trustees," Howard Schultz said.

While the board approved the road commissioner's budget April 16, last week it reconsidered and subsequently voted to delay approving the budget until a second hearing is held June 11.

Schuldt previously recommended postponing the vote, originally scheduled for March, until April to better digest the numbers.

Once the April 16 vote was taken, Schuldt questioned whether it was legal for the board to do so since the vote did not follow a budget hearing. Township attorney Ron Roeser recommended the board follow the law and adopt the budget at the conclusion of a public hearing, which is why the board will vote again on the budget, this time in June.

The delay forced the township to use some of its $400,000 in reserves to pay highway bills.

That led to Assessor Janet Siers accusing Schuldt of holding off on the vote until his running mates -- Charleen Carlson and former supervisor Fred Bulmahn -- are seated this month.

Schuldt said he was merely trying to follow Roeser's advice by holding the vote after a hearing.

"I'm just trying to keep everything legitimate and as frugal as possible," he said.

Schuldt, a trustee for eight years, has also questioned whether the road commissioner is doing enough to save township dollars. He also questions why there are two full-time employees in the road district's office instead of a single part-time employee.

"Our budget is getting a little out of hand," Schuldt said.

Schultz said he trimmed his personnel budget from $159,000 last year to $150,000 this year by reducing overtime and plowing and salting some of the streets himself. He has been the road commissioner for eight years and says he's always employed two full-time workers for safety reasons.

Township Supervisor Margaret Sanders defended the township's spending practices.

"It's the job of the four trustees to audit the bills every month. Highway Commissioner Schultz, he's very frugal with the tax dollars as is the assessor ... we don't spend any money that we don't have to," Sanders said.

The township has until June 30 to sign off on the budget.

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