The Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees meets Monday, June 10, 2013 @ 7 PM.
It starts off with a fireworks permit for Wabeek CC.
Then the agenda is about the police and fire departments.
MY COMMENTS and OPINIONS:
I appreciate, and I'm sure all others in the township appreciate, the services provided by our police and firefighters and the dangers that they encounter everyday to protect us and keep us safe.The taxpayers of Bloomfield Township have given generously through their taxes and (by majority) votes over the years to provide the finest facilities, state-of-the art equipment, training classes and training facilities and provided wages and benefits that are the envy of many communities in Michigan.
During the shocking economic down-turn of the past 5 years or more, most communities have had to make drastic cuts in personnel and in purchasing equipment. But NOT Bloomfield Township. WHY? For one, in 2010 the taxpayers approved by 600+ votes for a NEW 1.3 mills general tax for 10 years. The estimated amount per year is $4 million.... and 98% of that "general" fund money goes toward Public Safety. There are 4 other DEDICATED public safety millage collecting millions.
In fact, Bloomfield Township has continued to purchase new equipment and vehicles. Both public safety departments have continued to hire new employees. More to be hired at this June 10, 2013 meeting. The training of personnel continues at the expense of the taxpayer. The existing contract signed in 2011 was for six years. That permitted the township trustees to vote each December to "opt out" of a new state law that required more employee contributions into their health plans. The township can "opt out" for 4 more years. That means the taxpayers pay that amount of money instead of the employee for the six years of that contract. The 2011 contract has "step raises"... which is an automatic pay increase for another year of service. The contract has generous sick pay, uniform allowances, tuition reimbursement, vehicle perks for some, etc. While the Township leadership continues to state the "wage freeze" that these employees have sacrificed... I do believe the numbers might show otherwise. The 2011 contract allowed for a renegotiation for WAGES in 2013 and in 2015. The township leadership did Vote 7-0 to give the employees a 2% wage increase for ALL employees, not just fire and police this past April 2013. Will they get another raise in 2015?
The total BUDGET for public safety, which is both police and fire, is almost $25 MILLION dollars per year. Of that $25 M is almost $20 M from DEDICATED millages...which means that money may only be spent on public safety. Another $4 M + is from the general fund/ mostly the 2010 new millage. Most of the "other million" is $850,000+/- from EMS charges for transport.
Question: Is the less than one million collected in transport fees from EMS balance out the COST for the number of employees/wages/pensions/ health costs/ ambulances/rescue equipment for transport/ etc. ? Should the township out-source the EMS/AMBULANCE service? Should the township go to a partial fire department with Volunteer Fire-fighters?
This shows that $24 million dollars per year are collected from the Township taxpayers in property taxes JUST for Public Safety (police and fire). While I don't think the pension that is underfunded by $85 Million dollars is just for public safety employees ... some how, the Township has either FAILED TO FUND... or LOST FUNDS over the years that were "invested" in this pension plan. The contracts that the Township leadership have signed were apparently too generous and as a result.... under-funded the pensions. That fact has now caught up with reality.
Question: With $69 Million in current BOND debt.... and another $85 Million in new BOND debt... which will require a combined $10 Million + per year guaranteed payment next year PLUS all the current and future costs to township government... How can the taxpayers survive? This is crazy. This is unsustainable.
Question: When the pension fund "loses money in investments" is it the responsibility for the taxpayers to "resupply" the investment money? The RISK in the investment should be taken by the employees... not the taxpayers. Should the township look for other alternatives to the pension plan? What about offering a buy-out plan? What about 401K plans? Something needs to be done besides going into more debt to pay old debt. Especially when that payment is NOT a guarantee that that debt will be satisfied 100%. More debt to that pension fund will continue if the township cannot pay the continually RISING current payments for the present year and the years in the future.
When the township continues to do "contract" work for other municipalities for a FEE...such as for the City of Sylvan Lake and possibly dispatching with the City of Bloomfield Hills, and ALL the many inter-local agreements that "share" employees and/or equipment with other municipalities...it is OUR taxpayers that must bear the burden of PENSIONS for those township employees we send elsewhere. Something is not right. The "fee" the township collects does not cover long-term costs..
My opinion is that the township and the taxpayers are in denial ... or shock. Property values have gone down. Jobs have been lost. Finding new jobs is difficult and the pay is often less. Families have gone from multiple earners to one or none. People have "retired early". People have tapped into Social Security at an earlier age vs full age because of necessity. Earning interest in investments is from minimal to surprising to nothing. Prices for commodities have increased. The cost of a college education for your children is almost out of reach. The "promised jobs" for a college degree are hard to find. People are angry or frustrated and often don't know why. Is it that the promise of the American Dream.. having it better than your parents.. is slipping away? That you don't see a better future for your children? Is it because you see government continuing to spend your tax dollars as if nothing has happened? The continuation of spending to keep up appearances ...in what is actually deceiving others... is a nightmare... not the American "dream". Our government leaders must face reality and make hard decisions to operate within the NEW reality.
It seems as though government employees are the only ones still with the good salaries/health benefits/pensions. While you are struggling to keep your family on budget...and to save money for your retirement... the government permits, by law, for 7 people to vote (our township trustees) to take more of your hard earned dollars to pay for debts that "you thought" were covered each year by your taxes. This $85 million dollar bond proposal for UNDER funded pension is just the beginning... of more DEBT OBLIGATION... by bonds... that may surprise you in the pocketbook in the future. Acquiring new debt to pay for old debt... with no new income stream... is a disaster waiting to happen.
Bloomfield Township taxpayers: YOU will need to face reality first. Stop the pattern of continually approving millages that are requested by township government without understanding the consequences. More people need to VOTE at the elections....in Feb., May, Aug. Dec. or whatever month the government uses. When less that a few thousand vote when there are over 33,000 registered voters in the Township.... the real majority didn't make the decision. Those that do vote become the voice for all. Learn the issue before voting. Hear all sides of the issue. Demand accountability and open and transparent government. ASK... are all bills being paid... current debt and outstanding debt? If not, cuts to the budget must occur. Sending more money into the pot is NOT the answer.