January 04, 2012 - Retirement benefits for local elected officials are safe, at least for now.
Independence Township Trustee Neil Wallace's proposal to eliminate retirement benefits for current and future full-time elected positions failed, 4-2.
"The rationale I've heard in the past is that we need these kinds of benefits to attract good people and I don't believe that's true. I believe people come to public service and those are the people we want in these jobs," Wallace said at the Dec. 20 meeting. "It's a pretty recognized fact that these out-of-control kind of benefits are costing communities dearly."
Deputy Supervisor Mike Clark said Wallace's motion was aimed at Supervisor Dave Wagner.
"I can't think of another good reason to put this policy in place and I have some question of the motivation behind this," Clark said.
Clerk Barbara Pallotta said she supports cost savings because the township has three former elected officials receiving retirement benefits, costing the township $30,000 per year. However, she wants to look into other options.
"We know we have to address it for the whole township and all of our employees, the elected officials should be no different," she said.
Trustee Mark Petterson agreed elected officials shouldn't get retirement benefits after eight years, but struggled with the language of the motion.
Treasurer Curt Carson felt the motion was too narrow.
"As a board, we need to look at everything and all of the benefit packages for everyone, right now what we're doing is looking at one piece of the overall picture," he said. "I'm never really in favor of that."
"We need to be looking at benefits as it benefits the township," he said. "It doesn't benefit the township to have benefits that are costly particularly to healthcare. Those are all going out of sight."
Carson said it would discourage young candidates.
"If they're going to set aside their career and have a family then they're not looking at anything down the road, we need to provide them something," Carson said. "I think we need to be looking at how that employment package will withstand time."
Trustee Larry Rosso agreed.
"We might make more restrictive the people that runs for these jobs, as being retirees that worked some place else or are on a retirement plan with some other type of company," Rosso said.
Trustee David Lohmeier believes in the long term the township is on the "wrong side of history" with retirement benefits.
"I think it's very unlikely today that young people today come into many companies expecting to have mass retirement benefits like their parents and grandparents do," he said.
Lohmeier suggested spliting the motion between current and future full-time elected officials. Wallace declined.
"I just think it should be gone," he said. "I think the way to do it is now."
AFSCME Union President Craig Richardson told the board the union in 2007 eliminated full-time healthcare for all future employees and were under the impression it would be for full-time elected officials as well.
"In 2007 gave that benefit up, we thought it was going to be all the way across for everybody," Richardson said. "We don't see that as a union at times that things are being cut at the top."
After Wallace's motion failed, Pallotta motioned to direct the Human Resource director to reconstitute the benefits committee and have that committee in place by the end of January, so that in 2012 a determination can be made that is equitable to all employees.
The board voted unanimously.
"I'm for what are our options and let's look at the whole package," Carson said. "Let's make it make sense for those who are going to consider running for office."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.