Legal fees, board salaries among budget issues at Township meeting

By Eric Heisig

Tension was higher than normal as the town of the city of Champaign Township debated their budget for Fiscal Year 2008-09 Tuesday night.

Though the township board eventually passed the budget, debate ensued about a $9,000 line item, of which a large portion was called “a supreme waste of money.” An amendment was eventually added re-appropriating the $9,000 of the $688,668 budget. Originally, $3,000 of that money was allotted for professional fees such as membership to the Township Officials of Illinois, while the other $6,000 was appropriated for legal fees, which a number of the Board members had a problem with.

The legal fees were said to be used for outside legal counsel, despite the fact that the city of Champaign currently allows the township to use their attorneys.

“It sounds like there could be a fight on the horizon,” said Board member Tom Bruno. “I don’t want to suggest we get separate legal counsel if that’s not the case. It seems like a supreme waste of money.”

Township Supervisor Linda Abernathy said the counsel was not going to be used for any legal action brought up against the city of Champaign but rather to get advice about how to properly run the township and utilize its resources.

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“This is not about a lawsuit,” she said. “What (the board members) are doing is polarizing the issue.”

The amendment moved the $3,000 to the professional meetings item on the agenda. The remaining $6,000 was transferred to a separate legal section in the budget, away from the original line item.

Board member Vic McIntosh also brought up to Abernathy the issue of increased spending by the township in recent years and went so far as to inquire about the increases to the township supervisor and assessor’s salaries. Abernathy did not take the inquiry lightly.

“I resent that you would wait until this meeting to talk about this,” she said to McIntosh.

McIntosh defended his questioning, saying the dialogue should be brought about in the public eye so there can be transparency with the government.

“We do everything we inherently can in public, so the public can hear it and understand,” McIntosh said.

After the meeting, Abernathy said there were factors at work during the discussion but would not disclose what those factors were.

“Call it what you will but there were bigger issues than what were on the table tonight,” Abernath said.

Abernathy would not say whether she thought the moves some Board members took Tuesday night were politically motivated. Abernathy is up for reelection next spring if she chooses to run and said she did not know yet if she would.

The township board meets the first Tuesday of every month in the City Building, 102 N. Neil St.