Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Lincoln Park at it Again

The taxpayers of Lincoln Park have just turned down the inclusion of PA 345 into their charter in May. The Emergency Manager, Brad Coulter will not take NO for an answer and has placed the question again on the November 3, ballot. The language is below:
This proposal creates a separate funding stream to generate new tax revenue for a Police
Officers and Fire Fighters pension system.
Shall the City of Lincoln Park, County of Wayne, Michigan, be authorized to establish a
Retirement system for the benefit of police officers and fire fighters, create a pension
board, and levy taxes annually in an amount sufficient to fund the system, but not to
exceed six (6) mills in any year, on each dollar of taxable value (maximum $6.00 per
$1,000) for all property in the City, all in accordance with the provisions of Michigan
Public Act 345 of 1937, as amended?
They have limited the request not to exceed six mills in any year but that can amount to an increase of $300 per year on a house with a taxable value of $50,000. It lets the City of Lincoln Park keep the money taxpayers have already voted for those purposes in Lincoln Park’s general fund budget to spend on other things.
The State of Michigan has 1,773 cities, villages and townships. Only 45 of them have approved PA 345. There is a very good reason for that. While establishing the retirement system is optional, once created, the local government must provide benefits under the terms of the Statute. There is probably as many interpretations of the statute as there are those offering it. The taxpayers lose.
Some of the problems with funding pensions, are caused by the municipalities themselves. Because they can never have enough money they find ways to extract it from the taxpayers any way they can. Sometimes it is by early retirement for the employees, which drains the pension fund and relieves the general fund, which is part of Lincoln Park’s problem. The next step may be a Deferred Retirement Program (DROP) which pushes the collection of the monetary portion of the benefits forward and transfers the other benefits to PA 345. Then they hire the employees back as contractors thus relieving the general budget from those costs.
In 2013 the top 20 wages in Lincoln Park were as follows:
1 Police  HAWK, BRIAN     232,247.06
2 Fire     LEWIS, SCOTT   149,320.05
3 Fire    VANCE, DOUGLAS B    138,125.84
4 Police KOLAKOVICH, RICHARD 122,558.97
5 Police POWERS, MICHAEL L 120,565.33
6 Police LAVIS, JOSEPH D 115,004.35
7 Fire    WRIGHT, ROBERT 110,511.05
8 Fire    HEIM, STEVEN 110,440.45
9 Fire    PRINZ JR, MICHAEL S 110,427.35
10 Fire  PERRY, BRANDEN 110,376.90
11 Fire  HENDRICKS, MICHAEL 107,230.46
12 Fire  MARTIN, STEVEN 96,721.45
13 Police KERR, SCOTT 96,187.66
14 Police WEIR, VINCENT M 95,537.64
15 Fire   FRASIER, JAMES R 95,315.21
16 Police STACHO, JEFFREY M 93,279.84
17 Fire   DYER JR, AL 92,080.18
18 Police SANT'ANGELO, WILLIAM 91,980.30
19 Fire   JEWELL, BRYAN 91,974.86
20 Fire  HARPER, MICHAEL 91,961.77
This amount includes overtime and is part of the past but could easily be contractually a part of the future. While they will never admit it, because it is illegal, I have known a number of police and firemen over the years that bragged about the fact that they would work their time off to manipulate overtime for themselves and their friends. I have been told that they do not do that in Lincoln Park and that it is only a result of understaffing. I find that difficult to believe. If you have access to the internet I suggest that you read the contracts that are listed on the city website.
Please do not be deceived and surrender your right to vote on future taxes to a pension board that you do not elect. Remember this change is permanent. If housing starts to increase in value, the amount of dollars you pay will probably only go up with no benefits of the Headlee rollback.