The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

January 26, 2013

Anderson Township Trustee lays off four employees

Budget shortfall cited as reason

ANDERSON, Ind. — Anderson Township Trustee Brenda Jones laid off four employees late last week, citing financial problems, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Three of the staffers let go were caseworkers — including Anderson City Councilwoman Donna Davis, D-District 2. The fourth worked as a receptionist for the office.

“I’m just devastated by it all,” said Davis, who worked at the trustee’s office for 18 years. “All I wanted to do was work another year. I would have been very happy to retire from there. I was happy with my work.”

Jones declined to talk about the layoffs or the financial conditions that made them necessary.

Among other duties, township trustees are responsible for providing assistance to the poor, maintaining cemeteries and “destroying detrimental plants, noxious weeds and rank vegetation,” according to the Indiana Code. Some townships also operate and maintain parks and fire departments.

The most important of the duties in Anderson Township is providing poor relief, however.

Many of the people who find their way to the trustee’s office at 1423 Central Ave. are in desperate need of help, said Leona Brown, another laid-off employee.

“There are people in need who are sleeping under the bridge who come in looking for a dry pair of socks,” Brown said. “These are people that need our help.”

For the past several years, the trustee’s annual budget has been stable, just over $500,000, said Township Board President Aaron Higgins. The board sets the trustee’s budget and approves all expenditures, but the trustee oversees the day-to-day administration of the office.

Property taxes are the largest single source of revenue for the office. Payments arrive in January and June.

Higgins said Jones and the board have not had a good working relationship since she took office three years ago. Jones, a Democrat, was unchallenged in the 2010 general election.

He added that Jones did not discuss her plan to layoff staff with board, although that prospect did surface last fall when Jones and the board were working on the proposed 2013 budget.

At that time, Higgins said, the board was concerned about the idea.

“We are supposed to cooperate with each other, but she seems to have her own agenda,” said another Township Board member, Elvis Jones. “She doesn’t listen to us. We put a budget out there and she just doesn’t listen to us.”

The decision to layoff employees now is even more of a mystery, he said, because the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, which approves all local budgets, has not yet signed off on Anderson Township’s budget.

Higgins said he has called a Township Board meeting to discuss the layoffs with Jones, but has not yet received a reply.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.

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