|Howard (click for larger version)|
November 19, 2012 | 05:05 PMEditor's Note: This is the final part in a series about how government in the town and village of Bloomfield is taking shape after last year's incorporation. The first part, which focused on the village of Bloomfield, was published Nov. 8, 2012.
BLOOMFIELD — Town Chairman Dan Schoonover said it's an "economic" decision.
"We can go to a clerk-treasurer and combine these two positions Ö and save money," he said over the phone Nov. 14.
Schoonover called it the biggest local issue since the majority of Bloomfield voters elected to incorporate a 12-square-mile region of land northeast of Highway H as a village in November 2011.
Of course, there's that little thing about the town asking the village to execute a direct annexation of all its land, thereby creating the largest village in Walworth County, if not the state. But that issue appears to be in stasis until a county circuit court trial scheduled for February 2013.
Meanwhile, this and the 2013 budget proposal have been keeping town officials busy.
Schoonover said the proposed combination of the town clerk and treasurer positions stands to become the largest governmental change in the town post-incorporation.
"It started at the annual meeting (in April)," he said.
Someone asked if the town could combine the clerk and treasurer jobs, Schoonover said.
But to implement the change involves the town's approval at a special meeting and majority support in a referendum election. The first step on the road to consolidating these positions may occur at a special town meeting Nov. 30 at 7 p.m.
Currently, the town has a clerk and a treasurer. The clerk is an appointed position, but because the treasurer is elected, the combined position also would be elected.
On Nov. 30, town residents will decide on combining these jobs. However, changing it to an appointed position would require a referendum.
Cindy Howard, the town clerk and clerk-treasurer of the village of Bloomfield, stated in a Nov. 15 email that the earliest the referendum election could take place is 70 days from the date the town approves its ordinance to make this change official.
However, don't expect that referendum next year.
"Because of the timing of the filing period and certifications for the upcoming 2013 spring election, the office of treasurer will be on the ballot for a two-year term ending in April 2015," she stated.
Howard a likely candidate
As if sifting through all the requirements wasn't enough confusion, there's the whole factor of the pending outcome of the annexation issue. Not only will the court weigh in on it, but a referendum election would be the final stage in making the decision of whether the remaining town can join the village of Bloomfield.
If that's what happens, then this whole clerk-treasurer consolidation, changing it from an elected to appointed position issue is moot.
And in a way, Howard's doing much of that job already.
But supposing the annexation does not go through, and the proposed clerk-treasurer position does, what happens next? Schoonover said he couldn't speak for the rest of the board, but he would support selecting Howard for the job. "She's the (clerk-)treasurer now for the village," he said. "Cindy and Pat have worked on everything here, so it's a natural fit."
As a seemingly inadvertent byproduct of the incorporation, Alvarez will have to step down as town treasurer next April (see related story below).
If the clerk-treasurer idea flies, would Howard go for it?
"I've been doing a lot of the job already. Ö I took this position as a temporary thing, knowing this annexation deal was already filed," she said on the phone Nov. 15. Later, Howard said she would, that she already has "the learning curve under my belt" for it.
But if the annexation fails?
"I don't know where I would stand," she said.
So there's just one more question — how much would the town save by consolidating these jobs?
Schoonover said officials are still working on the 2013 budget proposal, a process he described as coming complete with its own learning curve.
"We know we're going to save money doing it," he said. "We just haven't got it all put together yet."
Howard, who started in April after longtime clerk and former town chairperson Martie Wells resigned, said the town pays her $325 a month, or $3,900 a year (her salary from the village is $45,000 a year). According to Howard, Wells' annual salary was $42,522. Pat Alvarez, the current town treasurer, makes $14,500 a year.
"If you add (their) salaries, that's more than I'm making combined," Howard said.
She said she expects a 2013 budget proposal to be completed before the Nov. 30 meeting, so it's also expected that town residents won't be asked to vote on a savings that at this point has no hard number to it.
"If people are interested in hearing how this will play out, they should come to the meeting because we should have more information by then," Howard said.