Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Public Hearing/ REZONING/ Was it Legal?

Hi All,
I question what was done by my township "leadership"  and the attorney we pay to protect our rights.

The following is my opinion and the facts as I see it.
Watch the Archive Videos of Board of Trustees Meetings  - June 24, 2013  
Agenda item # 8   Public Hearing    Consider Approval of the Final Site Plan and Proposed Rezoning for 4145 West Maple Rd.

Tonight there was a PUBLIC HEARING.   This particular  parcel is at the SW corner of Maple and Telegraph  next to the Maple Theater and adjacent to a residential neighborhood called Birmingham Farms Subdivision.  This agenda item was legally noticed in the paper to the public and to the neighborhood with the written announcement  to accomplish a specific purpose: To change a 1.29 acre parcel with an old bank building from zoning classification O-1 to B-2 and to amend the legal 1962 Consent Decree protecting the property and to approve a site plan use for the existing former bank building.   The specific property parcel was intended  (via a legal agreement in 1962)  to be zoned  O-1  as  a buffer between residential and commercial.   

WELL.... That entire concept..agenda item..proposal...legal notice..... was changed DURING THE COURSE OF THE MEETING.   People were changing the agenda item.  How can that be legal?   I protest.  I may even show up at court or write to the judge when the township goes to file the amendment to that consent decree.   I object to the proceedings and the consent decree "amendment" that was not really explained at this public hearing.    I bet someone or all of the township leadership  will need to watch their own TV appearance.... so they know what the heck  they  even motioned and approved on this agenda item.   THIS IS/WAS  A REZONING ISSUE.   A VERY IMPORTANT CHANGE TO OUR TOWNSHIP.   The new zoning classification "runs" with the land.  So, there might be retail proposed for that location today....  and perhaps a fast food restaurant later.  That would now be legal....because of the change to  B-2 classification.

This agenda item needed a re-do as there were questions by some of the leadership and it was motioned to Table the agenda item and put it on a future agenda. However, the township leadership failed in a  vote to TABLE it, a mistake in my opinion.  Instead, they (six people and two attorneys -one for the land owner and our township attorney) tried to  create during this meeting a new condition for the property rezoning.. giving  different dimensions/ different classifications.... different ideas and ways to rezone the property....but saying the "details" will be worked out later.   Really? Then there was a motion, exactly what I'm not sure,  and then with a VOTE  that...whatever it was... motion was approved.    Egads.
The vote:   4-2   Devine and Roncelli voted NO.     Khederian was absent.   Savoie, Barnett, Kepes and Buckley voted YES .   But who knows what was really voted on? 

I guess something was passed at that meeting for this agenda item.  We'll need to wait to read the minutes and the quickly written details of any new legal documents created this evening....as the documents prepared for this agenda item and posted in the board packet were NOT the ones approved.

BOTTOM LINE:   Something on that parcel of land is now zoned B-2 and I question whether or not it was done legally.

Apparently, a  legal consent decree means nothing.  The township Board Packet has the document for review if anyone wishes to read it.   The Township solution to change or amend the legal document, the 1962 Consent Decree:  is, why don't we just  WRITE a new ordinance, of course.  The township is great at writing new ordinances to fit every immediate need to make things "work".   What else is needed to change the zoning?   Well.... Throw in some conditions:  such as requirements for parking spots.  In the past, the ZBA usually  approves every parking lot variance the DRB sends to them.  So, don't count on any "parking provision"  to keep unwanted B-2 businesses out.   NOW, at this location, on this property, you have the same conditions as the Tim Horton B-2 zoning situation all over again.  Commercial B-2 adjacent to residential.  The situation becomes:  the property owner has "rights" too.... different rights now than the O-1 rights,  but now the "rights" are for B-2 development.    Our attorney did not, or possibly cannot or will not defend against businesses that our B-2 ordinance allows. 

One thing I did NOT HEAR at the meeting.... was someone making a motion about the proposed ordinance.  I did NOT hear it specifically motioned and/or approved.  This would be the new ordinance the Township wrote about changing the zoning on this particular property.   I expect to see that back on a future  agenda.   But will it???  That ordinance was another one of the township's written "special ordinance to fit an immediately needed situation to make it work".    

Again, in an effort to PLEASE a commercial customer.... the rules and regulations go out the door.  The proposed B-2  business just "wants to get his permits to start the work".  Hey, he has a space already in that same shopping center.  Follow the rules.   Nobody even SHOWED the site plan of this guy's new (currently existing in another location) endeavor at the meeting.  Why not?  The agenda item also was to approve a site plan.  Did anyone look at a site plan for the old bank building?  The public didn't see any plans.  What kind of PUBLIC HEARING was this?

Going back to the Legal Consent Decree of 1962  supposedly protecting the adjacent subdivision:
Why did the Birmingham Farms subdivision leadership tell the planning commission that it was OK to rezone the adjacent commercial property thus basically OK-ing the breaking of the 1962  consent decree?   Why? Was it no big deal?  Was the approval  given only verbally?   Was there any letter signed by the board of directors of the Birmingham Farms subdivision?   Were there any signatures from the adjacent homes filed on the record?  Did our Planning Commission members demand verification of that given statement?
Thank you, Jan Roncelli, Clerk/Trustee, for checking for some facts in the neighborhood.  According to your statements at this public hearing... you went to the subdivision and talked to some people and they  did not know that their subdivision leadership took that position on the rezoning.  That should have been enough reason to TABLE the  agenda item.  But, NO.   Why not, Leo?  You cast the vote to make it a tie....thereby failing to TABLE the agenda item.   What couldn't wait another two weeks???

The following is a made-up scenario....but interesting....

My gut wants to tell me  ...that feeling that something isn't quite right..... but I have no proof... just a suspicious imagination???    My gut says:  since the Birmingham Farms subdivision president never showed up for the first  RE -zoning request  in 2012 at the public hearing (to my knowledge)  or mentioned in the board packet info.  So why show up now?   Did anyone at the township have a meeting with him?  Was a deal made?   Hey,  was anything said like:  agree to break the legal document since 1962 protecting the homeowners in the subdivision, so the developer can rezone from O-1 to B-2 ?   Maybe ... the township can come into your subdivision and do asphalt repair......  on the township dollar?

Am I accusing anyone of anything....NO.  But it does make interesting reading.
Did the above scenario  happen?  Of course  I don't know. ...but I have to admit:  that imagined scenario was running through my head as I watched my leadership conduct BUSINESS at the Board of Trustees meeting on Cable 15 on June 24, 2013.    

Gee, at this same Board of Trustees meeting,  A REAL  and  different agenda item was presented:  Agenda Item #3:   2013 Asphalt Resurfacing Program
A road department program, according to the board packet.... that had been discontinued since 2006...all of a sudden...oh, no, excuse me, it was noted in a township letter  that contracted asphalt repair by outside contractors was budgeted back in for this year.  However, upon fact checking the Township  $ 4 Million dollar ROAD budget,  I could not find any line item  that was ZERO last year and is now almost $200,000.  So, excuse me,  when and by whom was this asphalt repair job by outside contractors get approved to be started up again?  Please know, the whole process of bidding was done quite legally, with request for bids/ awards/ etc.   Hubbell Roth & Clark engineers were NOT used.  All plans/specs/inspections were/will be done "in house" by township employees.  However, guess what subdivision gets the asphalt repairs on the township dollar?  Yup.  Birmingham Farms Subdivision.  The same subdivision where the subdivision leadership told the Planning Commission that the subdivision was ok with the rezoning, etc.   Coincidences happen all the time.

That asphalt road repair job that was presented by the road department on tonight's agenda item passed tonight without much, if any discussion.  Cost:  just under $200,000.....so asphalt repair it is... done on township dollars  for this SAME  Birmingham Farms subdivision.  The subdivision is involved in the O-1 to B-2  rezoning issue because of its adjacent location and the 1962 Consent Decree  with the adjacent commercial land.   In fairness, there is another subdivision benefiting from this asphalt  contract.   No Special Assessment District for either of them.   Why those subdivisions?  Why not your neighborhood?  Did you ask for road repairs?  Did they?   Are you being asked to pay for your road repairs through Special Assessment District costing thousands?  YOU paying back Bonds for15 years for resurfacing your own road?  Ask yourself:   How is that  FOUR  million dollars  EACH YEAR of your tax money spent on roads in Bloomfield Township?  Don't know?  Time to ask.  The ROAD DEPARTMENT millage ends in a few years.

I watched my government vote for commercial development rather than defending the residential community and the 1962 legal document that protected it for so many years. 
That land has been zoned O-1 for a long time.  The O-1 owner had the right to request rezoning.  The township had the right to deny that request.   But they did NOT.

Isn't Bloomfield Township supposedly known for it's residential areas?   Not any more.  More commercial.  More crime.  More concrete.   Go figure why.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pension obligations/ Bl. Twp. and BH schools to "share" costs of a police officer

Hi All,
Today, Thursday, June 20, 2013  is a Bloomfield Hills SCHOOL board meeting at the Doyle Center on Wing Lake Road at 7 PM.

On their agenda is:
  • Rob Glass, Superintendent presenting ?  to the former Bloomfield Township Police Chief, Kirt Bowden who recently retired.
  • Introduction of School Security Officer
Here are the minutes from a previous May 16 school board meeting discussing the "sharing" of the costs for a Bloomfield Township police officer.    The TOWNSHIP has had NO public meeting on this issue to date.

If the SCHOOLS need a "SECURITY OFFICER"  they should HIRE their own from a PRIVATE company that specializes in security.

FYI:  The township has for years assigned officers in a school liaison position.  Currently that is Investigative Officer John Hoffman and Patrol Officer Andrew Racine.  The township commits their entire force to the protection of the children  and adults in this Bloomfield TOWNSHIP community every day.  In my opinion, the officers should not be "for hire" by others.

The Township and the BHSD met and talked ?  When?  Question: what legal firm(s) worked on the contract?
  • The Township has not brought this "contract" to a public agenda.
  • What does the "proposed contract" state?  
  • There was a "selection process"  to choose which of the township officers will be that "security officer"?  Don't you want a security expert with all the current knowledge of available equipment?
  • There is a concern over "rank" of the officer?  Is rank important..why?
  • The officer chosen may have a salary change? 
  • Don't worry if the school is not in the township, there is a  "jurisdictional relationship .... It will not be an issue."  Here we go.... our officers in other communities.

Here is another example of the Township government "seeking revenue".  For a small "fee" the township government does work for other taxing authorities...in this case... the Bloomfield Hills School District (BHSD).

What most TOWNSHIP residents don't seem to understand is that our township leadership is continuing to create work for our employees OUTSIDE of our taxing jurisdiction.  The township employees are doing assessing in neighboring Sylvan Lake as well as building permits, etc.  The township employees went to Pontiac to do building inspections, etc. for Raleigh Michigan Studios.  The township is currently seeking to do dispatching for neighboring communities.  There were talks of combining police and fire with others.  There are many "interlocal" agreements among the various communities in Oakland County where our employees go elsewhere. 
I understand "sharing" in emergency situations and helping out that way. 
But are other communities relying on the "interlocal agreements" more and more while they eliminate personnel in their city? 

Are the neighboring communities SAVING money by eliminating personnel, or equipment, and thus depending on the "interlocal agreement"  to accomplish some jobs?   Those communities know that in order to SAVE money, one must look carefully at their budget and make changes.  Since so much money is earmarked for pensions and benefits for employees, that is where cuts are often made. 

A decision to "share" an employee(s).... when the taxing authority is different... puts the PENSION benefits and long term obligations to only one community.  In all cases mentioned above, those obligations for pensions, etc.  go to the TOWNSHIP taxpayer.  Right now, that pension fund is underfunded by 85 Million dollars.

This is how Treasurer, Dan Devine, described the proposed $85 million bond  to satisfy the ONE underfunded pension plan as quoted from an article:

Bloomfield Township
June 12, 2013
Bloomfield Township approves bond language to fund pension liabilities
By Robin Ruehlen
C & G Staff Writer

“The obligation will not go away; it’s just a more cost-effective way of satisfying the obligation. Some other communities handle their pension obligations by eliminating positions and reducing salaries. And what happens is, that reduces services to the public. The way we’ve done it, we can maintain an excellent work force and provide sustainable benefits in a cost-effective manner.”
The question to  Dan Devine:  is it the township position to BORROW MONEY instead of eliminating positions or reducing salaries?   

Is borrowing $85 million to provide "sustainable benefits"  a "cost-effective" manner?   NO.  If the money collected each year from the taxpayers cannot pay for its yearly obligation to the pension fund... then there needs to be CUTS in the budget and some of that should be eliminating some employee positions.   It is time to down size township government. 

ALL township employees just got a 2% pay raise in April 2013.  That had to increase the pension liabilities.  When you borrow money ($85 M bond) you must pay it back, with interest, and there are fees included.  I heard... $5 M of that $85 M figure will be paid to others to facilitate the bond sale.  Will that pay day go to those pushing the bond sale in the township?

Bottom Line:
Township residents need to keep their wallets open.  Your elected leadership seeks work for the employees anywhere they can find it .... and while there is a "fee" involved ...  that "fee" never covers all the costs of doing that business.  Private companies go out of business when that happens .... government just borrows more money for YOU to pay back.

As always, My Opinions.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Eccentric article/ More Comments on $85 Million Bond

Hi All,
Please take time to read this article on the Township Bond issue:   Bloomfield Township to issue $85 million in bonds   by: Jay M. Grossman,   Birmingham Eccentric Reporter

My Comments and Opinions:
From Eccentric article:  I've put quotes as:   bold/italic/underlined

"Whether they agree or not with the decision is a totally separate issue."  (Savoie)

In my opinion, those 2 newly planned meetings are to quiet the masses.... the decision is NOT going to change. So, if you think the bond decision is going to change by going to those meetings...think again. A referendum was the only way to get a public vote, which I still wish could happen.   Those 2 meetings were only scheduled after the issue became more public and after Savoie held a private meeting with some UHOA members and others.  It was not at a public Board meeting.   I believe the township will just want to focus about their bond decision stressing the word "saving" at those two meetings. 
I would stress the word RISK  and ask WHY  is the pension fund so underfunded and what other options were considered?   There were other options given at the study session.  Let's hear about them.
"Savoie said the township will save about $80 million over the next 20 years and still meet all its pension obligations." 

Honestly, the "save" $80 M  is estimating... and will THIS bond meet ALL pension obligations??  I doubt it... as the pension will need to go much beyond 20 years.  What then?  Need to check to see if the other pension plan for post 2005 employee receives any taxpayer contributions.   Are there any
more pension plans on the books?  Are there obligations to those as well?  Are they underfunded?  These issues also need to be discussed at the township "town hall" meetings.  The taxpayers should see the whole picture of township expenses.

What Savoie should have said was that we have an obligation to pay a DEBT..   Our current PENSION debt on one plan is an $80 million obligation.   IF we do a bond there is another  $5 million in upfront fees,  and XXX millions in interest owed.   Remember, this is a DEBT..... not a savings account.  There is money OWED.    There is also around $69 Million in OTHER bond debt already on the books at the township that require payments.    That bond debt number is growing with paving and other unfunded issues.

"...and right now the township is getting back around a 5-percent return on its investments."   (Devine)

Ask Devine and Schwartz, Prudential or other financial advisors with the township :  was any money LOST during the investment periods and how many years did it take to recover the money?
What factors made the pension go from 82% funded 3 years ago....with a good 2 years in the stock market since.... to  DROPPING  IN VALUE   to only  61 % funded today??
If the township was invested properly with (I don't know the amount) of millions of money in the pension fund previously.... and LOST  21%  to become even more UNDERfunded during 3 of the most productive years  ....  maybe we should have different investment advisors.

Or, should we just admit right now that this type of pension is unsustainable?? 
I wonder.... could we get the people expecting a pension from this fund.... to sign off any more financial responsibility from the township taxpayers if we put $80 MILLION "pot of cash" into that pension fund??  Let THEM take the investing RISK permanently!
Have you read the news lately about  Chrysler/GM and others with changes to pension funds?

  • I would like to remind all of the Township taxpayers... that back in 2010.... just before the February vote to increase our taxes with a 1.3 mills NEW GENERAL OBLIGATION for 10 years...( which passed by 600+ vote). the S.O.S.  committee that sent out postcards with burning buildings...and suggesting that EMS might not be able to save you... scare tactics in my opinion to get you to vote YES for the new millage ($4 + Million collected/year) ,   that S.O.S. committee was  FUNDED  almost 95% by employees and vendors of the township.  Instead of adjusting the size of government and making cuts.. many on the township payroll or doing work for the township in 2010, actively supported raising your taxes instead.    The contributors to the  S.O.S. committee is public record.  Some with contributions in the 10's of thousands.
  • I hear, but cannot confirm at this time, that there are currently 250 retirees collecting a pension now, with 10 past employees vested in the program but not old enough to collect yet, and 213 current employees still employed at the township and in this pension plan.  I have heard that the pension plan is for the employee and their beneficiaries.   That makes 473??? people in this pension plan??  Those numbers should be confirmed at the town hall meeting.

This is a DEBT, an obligation.  I understand that.
This debt apparently has not been managed well in the past or it would not be that much underfunded.
Do continual pay raises and perks and/or other factors keep changing the grand total of the obligation?  What changes have been made to the pension language?  The township most likely knew this law was coming to use bonds for underfunded pension plans.  There were certain agenda items over the last year concerning the pension plan. I didn't pay much attention to them.  Perhaps we all should have?  How did the township position themselves with those agenda items in terms of being able to do this bond issue?  One agenda item concerning the pension seemed retroactive to make it valid at an earlier date.   I'm not an investigative reporter. However, there are things that bother me....
THIS bond proposal is not refinancing, there is no existing loan...only bills that have not been paid by our township leadership that was to keep the pension fund at an acceptable level.  This is a lot more than just searching for a low interest rate.   THIS IS LOOKING FOR A LOAN...with low interest rates. 

THE BOND... is a loan with RISK and possible benefits.     A bond provides a huge "pot of money" at once...for the township leadership and Schwartz,  and Prudential and /or others to gamble with and HOPE the financial gamble  pays off.  With $5 million allotted for "fees", those financial advisors potentially make a huge pay day whether or not the $80 million along with what is already in the fund to invest (at a  RISK to the township taxpayer)  is successful at the end of 20 years.  I get nervous when a huge fee goes to a person telling us it is good to give them $80 million to  invest...with no risk to them.

If we don't do the bond...we don't have $5Million in fees.  I would like to hear about making PAYMENTS every year over the next 20 years... say, $5 million/year,   taking the money out of the township budget.... to satisfy the $80 million underfunded.  20 years times  (a possible)  $5 million per year is $100 million.   More than what is currently needed.   NO risk/ No fees/   and... if invested yearly in something similar to a savings account/ or low risk... more money would be gained.  Yes, I know there would need to be cuts in township government ....  but those cuts are long overdue in my opinion.  Outsourcing some things would help. 

The township employees are going to get their pensions regardless.
  • However, I don't believe past contracts were good for the taxpayers.  I don't think there should have been 2% pay increases this April 2013.... the OPTION... to open the existing six year contract  for wages was there...  however, granting pay increases was not mandatory. 
  • I don't think the Township should annually "opt out" of a state law that had the employees paying more...  by "opting out" the taxpayer pays that employee amount instead.  
  • I don't think our employees should be hired out to Sylvan Lake, Pontiac, or other municipalities for "FEES".  Also, there are many "interlocal" agreements.  While other nearby municipalities scale down.. our employees are often the ones going elsewhere to help out.  The township taxpayer is responsible for pensions...not the fee payer. Perhaps it is time to scale down the SIZE of OUR government at Bloomfield Township.  It seems as though the only way to do that is to force the issue by voting NO on future millage proposals. 

Many that see the BOND as a DEAL.... are the ones not paying the DEBT.  Those financial advisors and employees that are pushing the bond deal are receiving immediate or future  benefits.  Does it mean don't do a Bond?  Maybe. If we have until Dec. of 2014.... why do it all in one 20 year lump sum? In a rush?   Would it be better to do bonds differently?  Not at all?  What were/are  the OPTIONS? 

I'm back to the %  funded vs % underfunded issue of the PENSION fund question....why did the bond go from 82% funded to only 61 % funded in the last three years?  The stock market RALLIED during those years,  and.... will this  $85 million bond make this fund 100% funded for its lifetime?  I doubt it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"POTS of CASH" ... to... "SAVE" YOU MONEY

Hi All,
$85 Million Bond issue in Bloomfield Township, MI.

Please read this article first:
Free Press article by Bill Laitner.    
Bloomfield Twp. set to be 1st in state to cut retiree costs by selling bonds

Now, more comments and opinions from me.....

I wanted this $85 Million bond issue to go to a REFERENDUM...for a vote by the people and so the discussion and the decision making of how to spend OUR tax dollars was more OPEN and TRANSPARENT.... and for many to finally face the reality of this unsustainable form of pension for public employees.
By limiting the process to get to a referendum in a 45 day time limit via a petition with signatures of 10% of the electorate .... is unfair.  There should have been a mandatory series of Town Hall type meetings before the vote of the leadership.   Honestly, I just couldn't afford the attorney nor afford to give the time needed to succeed in the referendum process.  

However, I did get people talking.  Now I need to get people THINKING .  When it comes time for more Township millages and trustee elections,  I hope all taxpayers will be paying attention, listening, talking, thinking, questioning, demanding facts and taking appropriate action by voting.

For those looking just at the $85 Million BOND issue:   I get it.  We owe the money... a bond at this time potentially  "saves" us money.    I understand an argument about lower interest rates save  money.  I understand investing money can make money or lose money.   

However, everyone needs  to look at both sides of investing RISK.   My question is WHO should be taking the RISKS?   In this township pension plan... the risk taker is ALWAYS  the taxpayer....  as the pension must be 100% funded until the last man/woman is gone. 

Our elected officials need to make contracts/agreements/ pension plans/  that are fair to the employee.... yet mindful of the taxpayer and what costs result from each decision.  
Did our leadership make payments to satisfy all those contracted  expenses EACH YEAR  from the taxes collected?   I'm not sure.
How did the pension fund become UNDER-funded?   
Was it:   Failed to make payments?  Lost money in investments?  What is it?

I still would like to know more about the pension plan and how it has been funded to date.  Where are the details of this plan?  What assurances are there that this new "POT of CASH" from the Bonds will 100 % satisfy the taxpayer obligation to this fund?  There are none.  This type of pension is unsustainable for many reasons.  This is not the last "pot of cash"  that will be needed for this pension fund...in my opinion.

What I don't understand is WHY the fund was UNDERFUNDED? 
Just three years ago this pension fund was FUNDED  @ 82%.   
NOW... with a new deal from the legislature and the Governor for municipalities to pay for underfunded pension plans,  the Township pension plan is mysteriously...to me...  now only 61% funded.  (keep in mind this fact:  one could only borrow what was "underfunded")    
So if the bond "funding" can drop 21 % in 3 years in today's world, how much will the fund be underfunded in twenty years when THIS bond ends?   
We have current employees still in that fund. 
They might not retire for another 20 years and live for another 30 years.  Bless them.

This pension was closed to NEW hires....not existing employees.  What I argue is that this TYPE of pension plan should have been closed to ALL.  Something should have been done/ offered/ negotiated/buy-out/ reorganized.....years ago because this kind of pension is unsustainable.  The taxpayer may "save" some money by borrowing $85 million...for twenty years...  but that may NOT be enough to keep the pension funded for the NEXT twenty years...thirty years.  
This is what the taxpayers should know.... and going to a referendum... to discuss the wisdom of bonds versus OTHER OPTIONS should have been discussed by the community.

A quote from the article:   "Bloomfield Township closed its employee pension plan in 2005, switching all new employees to 401(k) plans that are funded by the employees’ own deductions, officials said."  
This quote needs a FACT CHECK.  I recall that the township DOES make a contribution to the new employee 401(k) pension plan.   The amount ??.   Something to look into.   Probably need to FOIA. 

The article used the buying of a home as an example of saving money.... Yes, some people refinanced to "save" money.  I get that.  Some of those people that refinanced their homes... may still be on track to lose their home.    On the other hand, in order to "save" money, some people faced reality and said..even though borrowing money is cheap right now...I don't have the financial resources to pay this amount of money back any more.     Some people said .. this isn't working.  I can't afford this home anymore.  What else can I do?   Give me some other OPTIONS.  Sell.  Rent.  Buy a RV or boat and live there  or  even go  live with family or friends.  What other options do I have to "save" money other than borrowing cheap money? How can I get out of debt?   Have the discussion/ exchange of ideas/ listen to each other before making the final decision. 
That's what I wanted and still want  from the Township officials:  the taxpayers should be part of the discussion/ decision making.   I can hear their come/back.... we had two study sessions and this as an agenda item at the Board of Trustees meeting. True.  But who knew this was happening?

Think about this quote from the article:  "Those tens of millions of dollars would be invested, and the account would be used to pay off the amounts due to township pensioners over the next two decades, Perkins said."
My question is:   what about the pensioners AFTER the next two decades?   Has anyone thought that far ahead?    
Now I want you to think about YOUR investments and all the money you have left in YOUR retirement account after 20 years of investing and coping with reality.   Some people have LOST money.  Will the Township lose this money?  Did the Township lose some money from this pension plan in the 2008 to now period ... or any other time period?  A touchy subject...but where are the financial reports from those years?  FOIA?
There is NO difference between the township pension plan funding  and your personal retirement plan funding  ..... YOU fund it.   The difference is the township pension plan MUST always be re-funded by YOU, the taxpayer  ....  Your personal pension plan is what amount you can still afford...and only then.

Another quote:  "The savings comes from the big increase in the pension plan’s expected  investment returns, made possible by the large pot of cash provided by the bond sale, he said." 
Whoopee...I'm at the end of the rainbow!  Not.
There were OTHER OPTIONS  to fund this pension.   I want to know what they were.    I want to know more about Township finances... more than what is found in the annual budget page.  I want to know what facts gave the township a AAA rating?  Is there another  "large pot of cash"  somewhere  that could relieve some of this problem without incurring more debt  to  "save"  money?

Please....do some thinking. 
The township wants to spin this issue to be.... saving you money.... by borrowing cheaply.  
They are the ones that put you into this debt by their decisions. 
We are not getting out of this debt...we are attempting to manage the pension fund for 20 years....with a lot of risk,  and all the risk is on YOU... not the employee.   We are not solving the problem.
"POTS OF CASH" .....  the government/ taxing authority way to try to convince you that it's not costing you money... you are "saving money".

 Sorry,  a debt is a debt.


PS:  for my friends in the Bloomfield Hills School District living in Bloomfield Township:
I see the Bl. Hills Schools are patting themselves on the back in this article about how much money they are "saving"  YOU in today's bond market.  I wonder how much TOTAL BOND debt the Bloomfield Township w/ Bloomfield Hills Schools taxpayer is obligated to pay?  Over $200 million?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

More Police/Fire Hires and 2 % Raises and $85 M in new BOND DEBT ..Go Figure..

Hi All,
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.

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.

My opinion.