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Benefit cuts OK'd


Longevity costs $12,600 to township annually



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March 23, 2011 - It's the end of the line for longevity raises for Independence Township's non-union employees.

The township can't afford automatic raises based on time worked, trustees said, voting 6-1, March 15, to stop the practice.

"I think the purpose it was created for is no longer relevant it was to reward employees," said Trustee Dave Lohmeier. "I think the original concept was to protect and keep your outstanding employees long-term and it's been less of a threat."

Trustee Larry Rosso said those currently receiving longevity raises should be "grandfathered" in, but there needs to be a cutoff.

"We cannot afford to go any further," he said. "Many municipalities are discontinuing longevity pay."

"I was floored anybody gets longevity," said Trustee Mark Petterson. "In the real world I don't know one company that pays somebody longevity."

However, he made a motion for the five employees who receive it to be grandfathered in.

"When the reward is great the effort is great. When the reward is taken away the effort becomes less and less," Petterson said. "These are our department heads, we need to reward them."

The township's Benefits Committee could not reach a consensus on the issue of longevity raises and offered two proposals to the board, said Carol Gabris, Human Resources director.

The first was to eliminate longevity completely, and the second was to grandfather existing employees and not allow any more employees to receive longevity.

Six employees would have qualified for longevity raises in 2012, eight in 2013, 10 in 2014, and 11 in 2015. At the end of 2016, the annual cost to the township would have been $22,000.

"Today that annual cost is $12,600," Gabris said.

Trustee Neil Wallace voted "no" because he felt longevity "could have and should have been phased out and replaced eventually with a performance review system."

"I as a matter of principal don't like the longevity," Wallace said. "I don't agree with the concept."

Car allowances cut

In a 4-3 vote, the township board eliminated car allowances for department heads and elected officials, in exchange for mileage reimbursement.

Under the car allowance, the building director received $500 a month; Department of Public Works director received $400 a month; information technology coordinator, $125 a month; $600 a month for the supervisor; $400 a month for the treasurer.

Supervisor Dave Wagner, Treasurer Curt Carson and Petterson voted against the motion. Clerk Barbra Pallotta was also eligible to receive the monthly car allowance, but declined it coming into office.

Lohmeier called car allowances "a bit archaic."

"Car allowances work well for convenience if you got the bandwidth to do them. They pretty much guarantee you're paying more than you need to in most cases," he said. "I like mileage personally because it's the most accurate way of making sure someone is getting back money they have expended on our behalf."

Wallace agreed.

"I like the idea of getting what you pay for and paying for what you get," Wallace said.

However Wagner said there was a lot of research done when car allowances were first put in place.

"It was determined that if they did keep their log sheets and turned in mileage, the car allowance was less than the mileage they actually drive," he said.

New benefits plan

A change in healthcare benefits for non-union employees is set to save Independence Township $75,151 annually.

"The non-union staff and department heads feel they have made incredible sacrifices in order to recognize the state of the township budget at this time," said Gabris, who presented changes recommended by the Benefits Committee for non-union employees.

Under current Blue Cross Blue Shield Plan One, the annual cost to the township is $344,108 about 1-2 percent of employees' annual gross income goes towards their healthcare.

Under the recommended Blue Cross Blue Shield Plan Two, cost to the township will be $268,957, and employee cost will be $50 per month for single person, $115 for two people, and $140 for a family, which also include dental and vision plans.

Gabris said the plan would not affect non-union employees' 14 paid holidays, with an annual cost of $64,701.

Employees wanted a change in vacation days, though. Currently, employees in their first year receive no vacation. After one year it, they get 10 vacation days; 15 days after five years; 17 days after 11 years; and 20 days after 16 years. After completing 21 years, it's one more day for each year, to a maximum of 25.

Under the new plan, from the first date of hire until five years, employees get 10 vacation days per year. From years 6-10, they 15 days of vacation; 11-15 years, 17 days; and 16-20 years, 20 days.

Employees who work 21 or more mores will get 25 days of vacation. The new plan will cost $1,900 more in vacation pay, from the current cost of $64,381.

"The change in this plan puts the township, one, in a more competitive position in terms of vacation because essentially vacation is the only benefit an employee can really negotiate," Gabris said. "Two, it prevents inconsistencies within the township on the application of the vacation benefit."

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.
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