Roseville voters to decide pension shift for police and fire

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Voters in Roseville Nov. 5 will weigh placing police and firefighters into a separate retirement system under state law, while Eastpointe voters will determine whether to change the qualifications for city manager.

And Eastpointe, Mount Clemens and New Baltimore have contested races for mayor.

Separating the public safety employees from the regular municipal pension system in Roseville would provide more protection for the first responders in an economic downturn, city officials said.

Roseville Police Officer Brian Dobrzycki, with K-9 officer Chase, and other public safety employees in Rosevlle, will be moved into a separate pension system if the city's voters approve Nov. 5.

It also would allow taxpayers to decide whether to separate personnel from equipment costs as part of subsequent ballot issues, should the need arise, officials said.

Currently, 49 municipalities in the state take advantage of the pension allowed under an 82-year-old provision of state law, Public Act 345.

Two proposals appear on the ballot in Roseville. One removes police and fire employees from the current municipal pension plan. The other would establish the separate pension under the state law.

“All it would do is to give us a separate system for general employees and one for police officers and firefighters,” said City Manager Scott Adams. “There is no millage.

“There are some components of the statute itself that provide some protections on the pension systems for police officers and firefighters,” Adkins said.

“And, in our case, which is the case of many communities, our police officers and firefighters don’t pay into Social Security. So their pension is really all they have at the end when they retire.”

To set up the system, money would be transferred from the current, general pension account to the new account. 

“It is pretty inconsequential, in terms of its direct impact on residents,” said Councilman Charles Frontera. “It would potentially allow either the people to potentially vote on a tax increase in the future should we need to do something like that for an emergency situation.”

Like other officials, Frontera said that at pubic sessions, including a discussion of the ballot proposals by the City Council, the issues have not generated controversy.

“I haven’t heard much rumbling about it one way or the other,” he said.

Adkins said the change also would allow the city, voters and taxpayers some flexibility to weigh decisions about financing equipment cost or personnel costs.

“If there ever is another economic downturn, you are not in a position of weighing: do we buy this new fire truck or do we restore pension financing,” Adkins said.

“We are working with the unions,” he said. “They are in favor of it. Actually, they’ve set up a committee to go out and get the information out.”

Battalion Chief Scott Bala is also president of Roseville Fire Fighters Union Local 1614, which supports the switch to a separate pension system.

“Many communities use this,” Bala said. “There’s no automatic tax increase for this."

“They would separate us out from the general operating millage. And it would allow the city, at some point in the future, if they would need to, approach the taxpayers about levying a modest millage to help fund the pension system, while freeing up those general fund dollars.”

In Eastpointe, city managers are required to have a year of experience as a city manager or assistant city manager to qualify for the position.

Many otherwise qualified applicants do not have that experiences, city officials say.

Hamtramck recently voted to amend its charter to eliminate a similar qualification and increase the available talent pool.

When Eastpointe recently sought candidates, many of the 60 who applied were fully qualified to do the job, having served as city managers or assistants.

“And yet, we had multiple applicants that had county management experience, township managers, village managers,” said Ryan Cotton, the interim city manager. “The charter says city or assistant city managers.”

Cotton, who is otherwise retired, said he would not benefit from the charter change, and will not be an applicant for the permanent position.

The current requirement “really reduces the applicant pool by about half,” Cotton said. “A yes vote will widen the applicant pool.”

The City Council approved the ballot proposal unanimously and there does not appear to be significant opposition.

Ballot issues in other Macomb County communities and school districts include:

•Sterling Heights: A 2.45-mill, 10-year renewal, with 1.65 mills for police and fire protection and 0.8 mill for street improvements.

•Eastpointe Community Schools: A 3-mill, 10-year sinking fund for school building construction and repair.

•Fitzgerald Public Schools: 19.5-mill, 10-year operating renewal, plus a 1.4205-mill, seven-year sinking fund renewal.

•Van Dyke Public Schools: 21-mill, 20-year operating replacement.

•Romeo Community Schools: 1.25-mill, five-year sinking fund renewal, plus a 19.5-mill, three-year operating restoration.

Eastpointe also has a five-candidate race for mayor. Three members of the City Council, Michael Klinefelt, Cardi DeMonaco Jr. and Monique Owens are running.

Harvey Creech, a retired United Auto Workers official, also is a candidate, along with Tonia Gladney, a criminal justice graduate who has been active in local affairs.

In Mount Clemens, Mayor Barb Dempsey is challenged by City Commissioner Laura Kropp and Christopher Luckritz.

In New Baltimore, former City Council member Ken Butler is challenging incumbent Mayor John Dupray, who is seeking a fourth term.

In Center Line, four candidates seek to succeed Mayor Bob Binson: council member Ron Lapham; mayor pro-tem James Reid; attorney Lee Ann Rutila; and Aaron Delikta, a 2018 candidate for state representative.

In Memphis, Councilman Kurt Marter and Jennifer Parker are competing to succeed Eric Schneider as mayor.