Roseville to host town hall meetings on pension proposals

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published October 1, 2019

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ROSEVILLE — On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Roseville residents will be able to vote on two ballot proposals that would allow the city to create a pension program for its Police and Fire department personnel that would be separate from the other city employees.

To explain the measure and answer any questions that residents might have regarding it, the city will host two town hall meetings prior to the election.

“What we’re planning is a town hall forum. We want to explain what (Public Act) 345 is and why the city is moving forward with the vote to include PA 345 in our charter,” explained Roseville City Manager Scott Adkins. “It would create a separate pension system for police and fire personnel than the rest of the city’s employees. The pensions are organized via the city charter, and any charter change requires a vote.”

The town hall meetings will both be held at the Roseville Public Library, located at 29777 Gratiot Ave. The first will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, while the second will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 24.

City officials say such a new system would provide a variety of benefits.

“This will more accurately reflect the pool of the employees in the city,” said City Attorney Tim Tomlinson. “Fire and safety make up the majority of the beneficiaries (of the city’s pensions), so this will allow us to look at them in a more accurate way, and look at what is needed for them as beneficiaries and the needs of other city employees — both with more specificity.”

Most notably, PA 345 allows for the possibility of asking voters to approve a millage to support the police and fire pensions in the case of a financial emergency.

“With a separate system we could ask residents to continue funding the police and fire pensions through a millage if there was ever another economic downturn and we needed that for the pensions to survive,” Adkins said. “We can’t do that under the current system that the rest of the employees would still be getting their pensions through.”

He went on to say that these proposals would not create a new millage or increase taxes in any way.

“There are 49 municipalities in Michigan who already use PA 345 to structure their police and fire pensions. About 22 are in the metro Detroit area in communities such as Sterling Heights and St. Clair Shores. It’s proven to be effective, and they don’t assess a millage,” Adkins said. “I want to stress to people that no additional taxes would be assessed if these proposals are approved; it would just give us the option to do so in the future. … A millage would be possible in an emergency as a sort of safety net, but people won’t be facing a new millage if we approve this adoption.”

Proposal 1 on the Roseville ballots asks voters to allow Police and Fire department personnel to be excluded from the current pension plan beginning with the 2020-2021 fiscal year, while Proposal 2 would establish the new, separate pension program for them.

“Because it’s an amendment to the charter, we have a retirement system in our charter that is provided for. To make a change to allow us to adopt a separate retirement system, we have to amend the charter, and that requires a vote of the people,” said Tomlinson. “You can’t do all of that in one ballot proposal. It would be too confusing, and you are limited to 100 words in a ballot proposal, so you couldn’t fit it all into one proposal. … (Additionally), the attorney general recommended doing it this way. I know other communities have done it this way.”

Officials also said that this new measure would not negatively affect other city employees and their pensions.

“The rest of the employees will still have their pensions coming out of the general fund. This new fund would still come out of the general fund as well, but would ensure that funding only goes toward police and fire pensions,” said Adkins. “It makes sure the city can’t touch this money for anything else. This should make sure both systems remain viable. … A lot of communities have problems with their pension programs, and we want to take steps to ensure that doesn’t happen here in Roseville.”

Adkins said he knew right away that public meetings would be beneficial for voters considering this issue.

“It’s a deep issue and can be difficult to explain, so we want to lay it all out in as simple and clear a way as possible,” he remarked. “This also allows people to come out and ask questions they have on it. … It will be a discussion with a PowerPoint presentation to break down what we’re trying to achieve.”

“We hope people come to the forum,” added Tomlinson. “We want these proposals to be properly understood. … We want voters to be informed.”

Call Staff Writer Brendan Losinski at (586) 498-1068.