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Huntington Woods passes millage to fund police, fire pensions

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published March 10, 2020

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HUNTINGTON WOODS — The residents of Huntington Woods have approved a ballot proposal to establish a pension and retirement system for the firefighters and police officers in the city.

More than 66% of Huntington Woods voters chose to approve the ballot measure, according to Oakland County’s election website, during the March 10 primary election.

With 100% of its precincts reporting, 2,327 residents voted yes for the pension proposal. This equaled 66.7 percent of the 3,489 people who voted, with 1,162 residents having voted no.

Huntington Woods had the highest percentage turnout in Oakland County, with an average of 64.02% of registered voters going to the polls across its five precincts. City Clerk Heidi Barckholtz attributed this in part to the proposal on the ballot.

“There was a steady trickle all day,” she said of people coming to the polls. “There were never lines. There was maybe a line at 6 p.m., a short line, but I was talking to precinct workers yesterday. They said there was always somebody in the precinct — two to three people at a time.”

The ballot question read, “Shall the City of Huntington Woods, County of Oakland, Michigan, be authorized to establish a pension and retirement system for the benefit of its fire fighters and police officers, create a board to manage the system, and fund the system by levying an annual tax for a period of not to exceed twenty-five (25) years in an amount not to exceed three mills ($3.00 per $1,000 of taxable value) in any year, all in accordance with the provisions of Michigan Public Act 345 of 1937, as amended?”

City officials previously told C & G Newspapers that the millage levied for residents would not be greater than 2.7 mills and could be as low as 2 mills. The millage for the first year is expected to be 2.4160 mills, with the average millage over 20 years to be 2.1030 mills.

With the establishment of the millage, Huntington Woods will use funds previously earmarked for fire and police pensions for road improvements.

The Fire Fighters and Police Officers Retirement Act, also known as Public Act 345 of 1937, allows cities to seek alternative funding sources for pensions.

City Manager Amy Sullivan credited the proposal’s passage to the city’s Long Term Budget & Planning Committee, which is composed of Huntington Woods residents.

“They’re the ones that came up with the plan and then championed the plan, and I think this is a great example of residents getting together — even in this small community — to solve big problems,” she said. “We’re really pleased with the results.”

Now that the millage has passed, PA 345 will establish a pension board in the city that either can decide to manage its own plan or have another agency or entity manage it for the board. Sullivan previously indicated that the board will have the pensions managed by the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System of Michigan.

Sullivan said that convening the pension board will take some time.

“We have to draw up bylaws, set a schedule,” she said. “The second part is to begin the work on the road reconstruction and maintenance, and we're set to begin that this summer.”