Township board considers raises for elected officials

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published January 28, 2014

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — With the nation, state and county gradually easing their way out of the Great Recession, township officials are looking at raising their salaries for the first time in more than seven years.

According to Township Clerk Michael Koehs, “Last year, when we saw how well we were doing financially, we thought that it would be a good time to look into this again. If any community can afford to adequately compensate its elected officials, it’s Macomb Township. No one likes to see public officials getting raises, but this board has certainly demonstrated strong financial management through the recession. So I believe that these raises are well-earned.”

No decisions have been made yet, but Human Resources Director John Brogowicz gave an extensive presentation before the Board of Trustees on Jan. 22 outlining the compensation study that his department recently completed. The study proposes pay increases for all seven board members, which includes the township supervisor, clerk, treasurer and four trustees. It is scheduled to come before the board again for a final vote on Feb. 12.

Addressing the board, Brogowicz recommended raising the supervisor’s annual salary from $78,786 to $90,000, raising the clerk’s salary from $73,159 to $85,000 and raising the treasurer’s salary from $73,159 to $80,000. Meanwhile, he suggested increasing the compensation of each trustee from $8,330 per year, plus $125 per meeting attended, to $9,000 per year, plus $200 per meeting attended.

Brogowicz noted that the current salaries for the township’s elected officials have been in place since Jan. 1, 2007. The proposed raises for the supervisor, clerk and treasurer would amount to annual increases between 1 and 2 percent since that time.

For the compensation study, Brogowicz only used communities with similar demographics to Macomb Township as a basis for comparison. The study only took into account townships with populations greater than 70,000 and total state-equalized property values of at least $1.9 billion. Of the 1,243 townships in Michigan, only five — Macomb, Clinton, Shelby, Canton and Waterford — match that description.

When explaining the rationale behind his suggestions, Brogowicz pointed out that although pay raises for the board members were recommended for the last several years, they opted to forego any increases throughout the recession. Their roles also evolved during that time to include more duties and responsibilities, the HR director added, and they still managed to remain fiscally responsible. As evidence, he cited the township’s $30 million general fund balance and the sparkling audits that it has received each year from Plante Moran.

“They recognized Macomb Township as one of the most financially sound municipalities in the state of Michigan,” Brogowicz said. “There’s a reason for that: It’s the work that you do, the decisions that you make (and) the motions that you pass. During the past 10 years, you have right-sized our workforce, adding new skills and experience when needed and eliminating obsolete skills. And during that same time, the total employment for the township has remained at approximately 245 employees. When you right-size your workforce, you can continue to add services and do more with the same amount, or fewer, people — and you’ve accomplished that.”

In addition to the proposed raises for board members, Brogowicz recommended salary increases for the township’s deputy clerk and deputy treasurer, which have not changed since Jan. 1, 2008. He did not provide a specific number, but he suggested that both officials — who currently earn $62,936 per year — should be paid a percentage of what their elected counterparts earn.

The only area where Brogowicz suggested a decrease in pay was for members of the Planning Commission. At the moment, these officials receive an annual salary of $2,174, plus $105 per meeting attended, but the HR director recommended eliminating this salary and simply providing commissioners with $125 per meeting for their service. He noted that these changes would save the township about $7,000 per year.

“The survey data confirmed, as it has every year that we’ve been doing it, that Macomb Township’s Planning Commission is highly compensated,” Brogowicz said. “No other comparable community is providing a salary to the members of its planning commission. Our Planning Commission also has a secretary who has many responsibilities that are not included for the other members, so I’m recommending that a salary should be provided to this person.”

Unlike the Planning Commission, Brogowicz suggested that compensation for members of other township boards remain the same. This would include $150 per meeting attended for members of the Zoning Board of Appeals, $28.25 per hour for members of the Board of Review and $15 per appeal for members of the Building Board of Appeals.

Furthermore, the HR director recommended increasing life insurance for each member of the Board of Trustees from $20,000 to $50,000. He also encouraged the board to review the health insurance, pension plans and other fringe benefits that it currently offers elected officials.

“In the past couple years, during contract negotiations with our full-time employees, the township has ceased providing retiree health care benefits to all of our future hires,” he said. “Thus, I believe it’s also important for the board to look at eliminating retiree medical coverage for all future elected officials, as well.”

Brogowicz did stress, however, that the board should not go so long without re-evaluating the salaries and benefits of township employees, both elected and non-elected.

“I think it’s very important that if you’re going to review compensation for yourselves and the various boards and commissions, that you do it on an annual basis so that you don’t wake up after an absence of time and … suddenly there’s a huge discrepancy between what the township is compensating and what comparable communities are compensating. … When you look at your part-time employees, appointees, consultants and counselors, why not evaluate their compensation on an annual basis too? I think it would be prudent for this board to do so.”

Trustee Roger Krzeminski praised Brogowicz and the rest of the HR department, who took the reins of the compensation study after an independent compensation committee formed by the board last year was disbanded when it failed to deliver satisfactory results.

“I just want to compliment you on this study, John,” Krzeminski said. “As always, you did a very thorough job and you explained it all quite well. That makes it a lot easier for us to make this decision, so I thank you for that.”

Koehs agreed. As he stated in a subsequent interview, this type of study is essential for township officials when evaluating their own compensation, which state law requires them to set, despite the conflict of interest.

“That was the best, most thorough presentation I’ve seen in a while,” Koehs said. “What I liked about it is that (Brogowicz) only compared us to other communities that are in a similar financial situation. And he tried to keep us near the middle of what people in those communities make, rather than putting us at the top or bottom.”

The most difficult part about this type of decision, the clerk noted, is finding the proper balance between being fiscally responsible with township funds and providing enough compensation to hang on to good employees and attract new ones. But in this case, he believes that these raises are overdue, especially given the discrepancy in pay between Macomb Township’s elected and nonelected leaders.

“All of our department heads that are unionized make significantly more money than what our elected officials make,” Koehs explained. “We have deliberately chosen not to give ourselves raises over the last several years, but what ends up happening is the gap between union and nonunion department heads grows considerably. These raises will help to close that gap somewhat.”