Source: Sherman Publications

Letter to the editor
Trustee responds on benefits issue

June 15, 2011

Dear Editor,

A recent letter is so misleading about an action of the Independence Township Board that a response is required (“Insulted by township,” June 1).

This spring, the township board adjusted the medical insurance benefits of its non-union employees to increase co-pays and contributions to premiums. This adopted the recommendation of a committee, which included representatives of this employee group and was generally consistent with adjustments made by union employees.

The benefits remain generous, better than many, many township taxpayers personally enjoy. The same changes were applied to retired employees, including retired elected officials.

Certainly a complaint about minor adjustments falls on deaf ears when so many hard-working tax-paying citizens of this community have lost their jobs or their medical benefits or had such benefits reduced – usually more significantly. That they should have to potentially forego township services they pay for to make certain that retired elected officials have medical insurance benefits for life is, in a word, wrong-headed.

Before making these minor adjustments, the township board determined that it had the legal right to alter these benefits, and clearly there is no contract. In fact, the benefits could be discontinued completely. The benefits the township continues to provide are very, very fair to these former elected officials.

The governor is proposing new restrictions on what benefits a municipality can provide, so this action by the board is again consistent with current thinking to address the problems of government over spending.

These retirement medical benefits were not a commitment made by this board by rather the action of a prior board that included three officials voting for it who stood to personally benefit if they served the township just eight years.

Next, no one is obligated to undertake service to the community. And there is no evidence that these very generous benefits have enticed talented people to township service. Folks do, and should, choose community service for many other, better reasons.

The township board has worked very hard to maintain the services it exists to provide. I am proud of the township employees who have understood and accepted these changes and continue to provide those services, doing more with less. If these adjustments to the medical benefits were presented to this board again, I would not change my vote because it is warranted and fair.

In the face of service cutbacks, lay-offs and effective decreases in benefits for the rest of us, the former supervisor demands we still pay for the benefit he created, that we pay to maintain exactly same benefit levels just for him, even though those benefits are obsolete.

If community service was truly his motivations for being supervisor, we should all have expected him to accept this graciously.

Neil E. Wallace

Independence Township trustee