Saturday, December 21, 2013

Risk and Liability... Should Student Ride to School on a Fire Truck?

Hi All,

At this time of the year...  why complain?  Why point out things that bother you?  Well, because this is the time of year it is happening.  I read an article about a BHSD student riding to school on a Bloomfield Township fire truck this past Monday, December 16.

I believe there is a relationship between Bloomfield Township and the Bloomfield Hills School District (BHSD) that seems to assume that the township taxpayers will (and often do)  provide special perks for BHSD.   I'd like to point out that there are Bloomfield TOWNSHIP households residing in other school districts that do not get the same perks. (Birmingham schools, Avondale schools and Pontiac schools.)

These perks are not mentioned on Township agendas nor BHSD agendas (to my knowledge)  and I would assume then.... not approved perks by either full board of trustees at a public meeting.

The latest:
Article found on BHSD website ... not the township website.  
Student rides to school on a fire truck.
Not a good idea... what IF  the fire station had an emergency call while the student was in the truck? 
What IF the student got hurt getting in or out of the truck?
What IF there was an accident involving the fire truck?
What IF the firefighter got injured while participating in this "prize"?
What IF.... a lot of things.
This is NOT how our firefighters and trucks should be used.
The township spends over $10,000 to host an open house EVERY year.....  where kids have the opportunity to climb on trucks, etc.

The school should think of another prize for essay contest winners.   The firemen have a charitable foundation.  If the Bloomfield Township firefighters wish to recognize a student's essay on fire safety and be part of a "prize",  why not a small donation.... in the winner's name.... to the school he/she attends.

I believe the school would assign and kids would participate in essay writing.... no matter what the "prize".  Certainly a ride on a fire truck is exciting, but adults responsible for the "prize" decision should consider the risks and liabilities involved.
The winning essay... and good advice.... was posted on the Bloomfield Hills Schools website:

Bottom Line:
Make the prize something that does not include  RISK and LIABILITY to the township taxpayer and to the school district taxpayer.
My opinion,   

Saturday, December 7, 2013

7 People Doing What They Want: Caution: Dec. 9 @ 7 PM meeting !!!

Hi All,
I am extremely concerned with the actions the Bloomfield Township government has been taking in many areas of government.  Here are concerns from the December upcoming Monday Board of Trustees meeting on Dec. 9, 2013,  @ 7 PM

First of all... the Study Session minutes from Dec. 4 are NOT being approved at this meeting but easily COULD be approved... so why not?

Other Major Areas of Concern on THIS AGENDA:


This property had a plan approved at the Board level months ago... but the Supervisor suggested at that meeting to the developer.... to come back again with a different plan if they want.... basically suggesting to the developer that the board might grant them a more favorable plan to the developers.

Well, looks like the developer did just that.  A zoning change...a new final site plan... a special land use request...  lot split.... THINGS that the adjacent neighborhood spent much time discussing previously.

It seems that someone...can convince certain neighbors... to accept certain things...such as trees on their property/ wall fixes/ etc.  to get them to go with changes in zoning and uses, etc., in exchange for  those "favors".... perhaps not realizing that THEIR problem may be solved... but not problems that affect others in the adjacent subdivision.  Too bad.

The building department (employees) and the Design Review Board (elected Supervisor, Clerk, Treasurer) can and have OK-ed  plans to move forward in the chain of meetings (that by law must take place before the plan can be built)  with plans that definitely do not meet all the township rules and regulations.
The Design Review Board and building department have scheduled those plans with  VARIANCE requests on a ZBA agenda before the plans get to the Planning Commission for a Public Hearing and before a Public Hearing at the Board level.   Once the ZBA approves the variances... those variances can NOT be reversed without a lawsuit.  SO.... now the property has approved the planning commission, the public, and the entire 7 member board of trustees CANNOT change that part of the plan. 

In my opinion:  The township employees/and elected officials  must know what they are doing.... and it is taking the PUBLIC out of the discussion and decisions on site plans for commercial lots...and at times, even residential lots.   It seems the township has had enough discussions to know what that developer really wants on that parcel of property and the developer may get what they consider their ideal use of that site ...residents be damned ....  if they are persistent and willing to play the township "games" as I consider them.

So.... no matter how many residents show up for this agenda item:  Public Hearing.... I'll bet the decision is already made... the township will go through the motions to make it look legal....  but the end result will be.... a change in zoning...a lot split.. variances granted.... Project: Approved.  That   will put retail/restaurants/etc  in the SW corner of Square Lake and Telegraph....   and I can almost guarantee... that there will be a fast food restaurant there....  and the hours could be 24/7....all adjacent to a residential neighborhood that for DECADES have been protected by O-1 Zoning...  office only.   Be prepared for multiple accidents at that corner on the roads, cooking odors and lights in a parking lot .. perhaps 24/7.  Once the zoning changes...   too late.


These two AGENDA  items show that the taxpaying  PUBLIC has very little chance to participate in the different Boards and committees... BECAUSE .... EACH YEAR.....the Board of Trustees reappoints the same people.  Some have been on the boards seems. So here was a chance for a NEW face on a township board.... so WHO is Supervisor Savoie going to appoint?  Answer:  Someone that is on other boards in the Township.    How do I know?  There are no official minutes posted yet... and NO ARCHIVED audio/video tape.     Click here.  for an article by Lisa Brody.

At this same 8 AM public study session, the Clerk brought up a proposal for:

In a note to many I communicate with through my personal email,  I received feedback from at least 30 of them... saying this idea did not sound good...especially if a vote was involved.  Again, with no audio/video archived tape of this meeting, and the written minutes not available.... what was proposed and said?   Did any of the 7 people acknowledge the email I sent to them BEFORE the meeting to express my opinion of this proposal?  Don't know?

I do send my "notes" to the printed and digital media people.  They get a heads-up about Township meetings, etc.  from me, if not from some other way.  Lisa Brody of Downtown Publications, promptly put an article on their digital format.  Did she receive a copy of a  Township pre-printed press release on the meeting?  Did she make a phone call and get her information?  Did she attend the 8AM meeting?  I don't know.  But here is the link to this second article about the Dec. 4, 2013 Study Session ...this article is as it related to the STUDENTS on the boards and commissions.

FYI:  but note:  no new adult people appear to be the current board and Supervisor. I do know that the township received 10 applications... no names given...but Supervisor Savoie  told me earlier..he would make that public information.  So????


This item is now in it's THIRD year of exempting the township out of a STATE LAW.
"AN ACT to limit a public employer’s expenditures for employee medical benefit plans; ....."
Limit the EMPLOYER's EXPENDITURES !   We,.... the taxpayers... are the employer.

Why "expempt" ? THE Trustees are NOT REQUIRED by law to exempt...they just MAY.
The Township approved in 2011 ... in the middle of an existing union contract(s).... a new  SIX YEAR CONTRACT.... just before the law was enacted.  (Public Act 152).  I have yet to hear exactly "how much" exempting "saves" the Township money....  or IF IT DOES ... So my question remains:  why are the elected 7 leadership "exempting" out of complying with the law?
Click here to read a blog about this issue written last year.

If memory serves me correctly, that 2011 contract for all employees... while sounding like the employees were making MAJOR sacrifices.... since that 2011 contract, the employees were actually getting step raises for years worked, promotional pay raises, overtime, a 2% pay raise, and ??? more????   More employees hired..... etc.    However.... most of the DETAILS of employee pay/contract/benefits/vehicles/educational benefits/ uniform benefits/ and "free" advising from the township stock brokers to help them manage their own new accounts are where?Where are those details? Did you know that the township pays 10-14 % of base pay into those "new" defined contribution pension accounts.  Who is Contributing the most?  Are we saving money?  If yes, how much?  And I ask again, WHY is the Township exempting the township from this Public Act 152?   Answer:  Because they can.  Where is your voice in many of these issues?


I never did get the Retirement Income Plan to boot up on my computer from  the BOARD PACKET that gives you the DETAILS that were shown to be on page 105 of the PDF....going to 205 pages.   Didn't show up... I must be too impatient.   BUT... what is "restatement"?  The SAME words as in the plan as last year?  Any changes?  If so, WHAT?

Rumor.... the township will try to take advantage of Governor Synder's plan for AA or higher rated municipalities to get more Bonds for the Retirement Health Pension.  Are the words in this "restatement" to "clean up" the program to qualify for the bonding?  How many millions for THIS rumored bond for the underfunded retirement health fund? 

When would the township make this decision?  
  • Before or after the Budget for 2014/2015?  
  • Before or after the township leadership tells you that THREE millages expired in 2013.....  Safety Paths/  Senior Services/  One of many Public Services.  
  • How can there be a proposed balanced Budget for next year.... if three of the millages have expired and NO news from the leadership as to how the loss of those revenues affect the budget.   
  • Or... are they...the 7 leaders.... just assuming.... since few pay attention... they can get 1000 yes votes out of 33,000 or so Township voters.... to show up in an off month election to get those millages re-approved without anyone noticing that they have expired?

Please go to the "Obligations"  tab in the Dashboard of Bloomfield Township:   note:  I had to log in to this is easy to make your own account on the Dashboard..if the below link does not work for you

Remember this.... the Dashboard is what the Township REPORTS....

NOT AN AGENDA ITEM TO BE DISCUSSED:  page 206 in the Board Packet...

 Another one of those "committees" that are never quite PUBLIC..... have you heard of the club? township committee?  non-profit?   ....?  whatever it is..... "FRIENDS of Bloomfield Township CERT"  ??   I have heard of CERT... vaguely...   The minutes of this organization just APPROVED  their minutes of them in the Board Packet....tells you mostly nothing except who attended.  Wait one year to approve minutes?  Then hold a Current Meeting.... and tell you NOTHING for another year?   Unbelievable.

Friday, November 15, 2013

$100,000 of Taxpayer Money is NOT for Donating BUT Personal Checks Accepted

Hi All,
Tonight (11-14-13)  at the Bloomfield Hills School District (BHSD) Board of Education meeting there was an agenda item to approve a donation of $100,000 of our school tax dollars to the Bloomfield Hills School Foundation... a 501(c) (3) organization. 

A check of the school website prior to the meeting brought up a Foundation link,  but a job posting for an executive director was all the information given.  No list of board members and no information  about their mission or goals.  I did request (after the meeting) that someone should put something about the Foundation on the school website.  It will be interesting to see what shows on the site in the near future.

I spoke during "Public Comment"  at the Board of Education meeting about:
why the Board should NOT approve the donation of $100,000 tax dollars to a 501(c)(3)

'Public comment"  is at a strange time on the agenda ... I had to comment BEFORE the agenda item was ever discussed.  I was hoping to learn more and THEN comment.  However, the $100,000 request was the last item on the agenda. 

The discussion among the board members on this last item continued for one hour.  $100,000 is a lot of money.  I was permitted to ask during the discussion who were the Board members of the Foundation and to ask what was the mission statement.

The 11/14/13 meeting can be viewed on the school CABLE channel at 2pm  and 7 pm. for the next few days or... at this link .  The entire meeting took three long hours.  

I learned that the board members of this BHS Foundation are:  BHSD Superintendent Robert Glass; BHSD Board of Education President, Ingrid Day; BHSD Board Treasurer, Cynthia von Oeyen; BHSD Assistant Superintendent and CPA, Tina Kostiak;  48th District Judge, Marc Barron: and active community members: David Fink and Sue Nine. 

I wondered during the discussion if school trustees Day and von Oeyen and at the same time Foundation trustees would state they had a conflict of interest if a vote came up.  It was not an issue because:   The BHS Foundation did NOT get the money from the school board... and in my opinion... rightly so.   In the end, no motion was voted on... and the discussion ended.

The BHS Foundation apparently began in 2007.  It has been inactive for the past two years or so, but according to this meeting agenda request for $100,000 .... the Foundation trustees would like to begin again and need "seed" money. 

Mentioned during discussion, the BHS Foundation has a current balance in the bank of $50,000.  They wanted another $100,000 from the school district.... mainly to hire an executive director for the Foundation and set the goals for future events.

If the Foundation board members thought there was such an overwhelming support from the BHSD community for this Foundation.... why not seek out donations from those supporters for the "seed" money in some other way?

Is it because it is easier to ask for and perhaps approve tax dollar donations while sitting on both boards of directors/trustees?  Same people asking as granting funds?

I heard during the discussion that one of the stated goals of the BHSD school board was to "support their Superintendent".

Apparently Rob Glass had worked hard on this BHS Foundation project for quite some time and some members seemed to feel that giving this $100,000 donation was therefore needed to show that they support Rob Glass.  Yikes.

While the project of a Foundation is a worthy cause ....using tax dollars collected for another purpose ...  to fund any charitable cause... is not right.  Rejecting the $100,000 donation just shows responsible school trustees... and not a lack of support for a person.

The BHSD Board of Education members, I am pleased to say, ...eventually.... took no action on this agenda item.   The $100,000 is still in the school account where it belongs.  However,  I expect this issue to resurface.

For the record:  A Foundation to support EDUCATION is a good idea.  The excitement and leadership should come from the community members... be spontaneous and enthusiastic.... filling a need if there is one.... making sure the children of our community have support and opportunities. School board members should be at arms length... not making monetary requests on behalf of the Foundation charity ... getting the dollars from the school board taxpayer funds they manage.

 IF... anyone in the community agrees with whatever stated needs or goals of the Foundation,  the community member can write a generous personal check and claim the legal charitable deduction at income tax time. 

So how about a challenge to the BHSD community?  If you think the BHS Foundation is a good idea... make a donation to BHS  

If you would like to see this Foundation operate again for the children, the Foundation board of directors need to hire an executive director.  They so happen to have just accepted applications/ resumes and the Foundation Board has apparently identified a good candidate.  The Foundation can't really offer that person a job... with only the $50,000 current bank balance.

So, are you willing to make a donation to the BHS Foundation?  We're nearing the end of the year.  Good time to make those charitable gifts. You can surely contact the school Superintendent, or others on the Foundation Board.   There are many different ways one can donate.  Are you interested in serving on this Foundation board?  Give them a call.

As for me, I'm very happy that the BHSD still has the taxpayers'  $100,000 dollars for education in the right bank account.    
The BHS Foundation did NOT get the money from the school board... and in my opinion... rightly so.

This is not the first time taxpayer money has been requested for charities by elected officials:   It may be the first time it didn't get approved.

The seemingly common practice in the Bloomfield communities... both municipal and schools...   of our elected leaders.... serving not only their constituents but also serving charitable causes.....  should realize....   that tax dollars collected for a certain legal and specified purpose.... should not be donated to the various charities they help manage/lead. 

Are you listening Bloomfield Township Trustees?

My opinion.
Marcia Robovitsky

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

WHAT? Borrow $85 Million to pay a DEBT but NOW OWE $165 Million Plus Interest?

Hi All,

Question:  What happens when you borrow money to pay one bill, but instead of instantly paying the bill you make a promise to pay?   Instead, you use that borrowed money by depositing the money in another account and then use it to invest in the stock market and other investments.

Answer:  You now have two bills to pay.  

Bloomfield Township took advantage of the state and Gov. Snyder’s recent law (Public Act 329 of 2012) that permits AA or higher rated municipalities to solve the underfunded pension debt with new bonds.

With no vote from the citizens, the 7 Board of Trustees authorized a $85 million bond sale..which was recently completed.   The necessary fees were paid out of the bond sale.    

The township has placed the $80 million remaining proceeds from the bond sale into an EQUITY TRUST Fund and all $80 million is to be immediately invested into the stock market and other investments facilitated by Gregory Schwartz and Co…. none of it in cash.  This investment program was approved at the Board of Trustees meeting on 11/12/13.

The new found borrowed remaining  $80 million money represents about 38% of the pension obligation that was the underfunded part of the pension plan that the bond sale was intended to pay.

There is  $130 million representing the other 62 % of the pension obligation that is already paid by the taxpayers and deposited (in past years) with Prudential … the company that will actually pay the pension benefits. 

The way I look at this is:
  • The company that needs the money in their account to actually pay 100% of the pensions, Prudential, does not have the money in their account.  However, on paper, the township has the pension funded 100%  by establishing a new account: an Equity Fund account for the pensions. 
  • The township is choosing to risk  $80 million that was borrowed to pay the underfunded pension debt.   
  • All that money is now invested in the stock market and other investments, not through Prudential, but from an Equity Trust Fund set up by the Township and Gregory Schwartz and Co. is advising.
What if we have another 2000 or 2008 economy?
  • The $85 million  borrowed via selling bonds to pay the pensions is already down millions to pay the costs for selling bonds.  
  • The $80 million invested in the Equity Trust Fund  MAY experience losses in any potential economic downturn.  
  • Whatever happens in the stock market and investments, the public still has the obligation to pay the entire sum borrowed plus interest to the bond holders.
  • The same is true of the entire 38% currently underfunded pension amount owed to the retirees.
  • This Equity Trust Fund account will need to regularly make payments to Prudential as employees retire. There are many employees close to retirement now.  The investment climate is risky at this time.  Eventually, the payments may reduce the amount in the Equity Trust Fund to or near zero.  What if that happens too soon? What if there is not enough equity to recover from losses from bad years?  
Did we really pay the debt to the underfunded pension with the borrowed $85 million dollars from the bond sale?

  • NOT REALLY !   Not until the money is deposited in Prudential that actually guarantees the pension payouts.
  • As of 11/13/13,  until that money is actually deposited into the Prudential account the township taxpayers still owe that $80 million to the pension fund. 
  • As of 11/13/13,  the taxpayers also owe the bond holders $85 million plus interest.
  • That total amount as of 11/13/13 is:   $ 165,000,000  plus interest.
Investment Return Assumption "Over the years.... the township will have saved over $60 million dollars in payments."

From May 13, 2012 Board of Trustees Study Session Minutes:

from July 22, 2013  Regular meeting minutes of the Board of Trustees

Link to the Township minutes