Vernon legal fees mount

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VERNON — The Vernon Township Council passed a resolution for emergency appropriations on Tuesday as part of an effort to cope with mounting legal fees.

Resolution 17-184 releases $141,794.31in emergency funding to pay legal bills that have surpassed budget limitations. Township Chief Financial Officer Elke Yetter said the large bills came courtesy of unforeseen events, including Mountain Creek's bankruptcy filing and an unexpected IRS audit.

Yetter said it was not known at the beginning of the year that such large legal items would pop up, “so we couldn't have budgeted for a lot of these items at the time.”

Through July, Yetter indicated the Township has accumulated around $48,000 in litigation fees related to the Mountain Creek proceeding alone. Litigation fees stemming from various other lawsuits has reached around $77,000 to date, she added. The total of the two far surpasses the $50,000 originally allocated for litigation in the 2017 budget.

Additional legal fees totaling around $60,000 have been incurred for tax appeals, Yetter said, also breaching the budgeted amount of $45,000. The IRS audit, which stretched back to 2006, cost the Township around $23,000, Yetter added.

Still, resident Sally Rinker criticized the council for the increase in legal spending, calling it unsustainable. Rinker noted legal fees 2015 amounted to a total $179,000 compared to 2017's original budgeted amount of $311,000.

Yetter told the council the emergency appropriation approved Tuesday will be marked as a deferred charge in next year's budget unless there are funds available for transfer from other budget line items.
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