Cuthbertson gives an editorial on the OPC Budget issue

By Jeffrey Cuthbertson, Rochester City Council

Rochester has been named one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live in America by CNN Money Magazine and we enjoy a City with strong finances, a good quality of life, and efficient services. The Older Persons Commission (OPC) contributes to our community’s appeal. The OPC was created by Rochester, Rochester Hills, and Oakland Township on a co-equal basis through an Interlocal Agreement.

The Interlocal Agreement created a Governing Board consisting of representatives of each of the member governments to oversee the OPC’s general administration and to propose an annual budget to present to the member governments for their individual review and approval. At the Governing Board’s request all three member governments, with voter approval, dedicate tax revenue to fund construction bonds and annual operations.

In difficult economic times, responsible governments and public entities have been trying to do more with less and even reduce their burden on taxpayers. Rochester has cut over 30% of its General Fund expenditures without impacting services. At the same time, City taxes have been cut almost a full mill! Savings from reducing current employee and retiree costs have been a large part of Rochester’s ability to do this.

The Rochester City Council has expressed concern with significant compensation increases planned for OPC employees in next year’s budget. Increases include an across-the- board pay raise, longevity “step” pay increases, a new retirement savings plan, a new health care benefit for certain employees and even a full cost payment “in-lieu” of health care for those who don’t take a health care benefit they didn’t previously have. This last payment “in-lieu” of health care benefits is about an $8,400 tax-dollar pay increase per eligible employee.

The fixed cost of these non-program compensation increases is close to $150,000 tax dollars over last year. In fact, the OPC Executive Director, Marye Miller, who suggests these increases are needed to “keep good people” would get an increase of about 17.5% or roughly $13,000 more under her plan and make over $90,000 next year.
These compensation increases funded by taxpayer money are not wise. As a result, the Rochester City Council rejected the proposed 2012 OPC budget and asked the Governing Board to consider our concerns. The Governing Board has not taken action so, pursuant to the Interlocal Agreement, Rochester has unanimously passed an alternate budget for the other member governments to consider.

The alternate budget eliminates pay increases and payments “in-lieu” of health care benefits and dedicates those savings to cutting the myriad of fees that seniors pay for programs and strengthens the Meals on Wheels program. All other aspects of the budget remain the same.

Though a responsible alternate OPC budget has been offered, there are people who are resisting its adoption despite a December 31st deadline. They include people who would otherwise receive compensation increases and they are leaning on elected officials in Rochester Hills and Oakland Township. Their actions risk the future of a great community asset.

It is time to adopt a budget that does not include unwise compensation increases. I call on the other OPC member governments to pass Rochester’s responsible alternate budget and help get the OPC ready for another great year of service to our seniors.

Jeffrey Cuthbertson, Rochester City Council

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  1. I am not sure what is more amazing….the fact the OPC and its Board could ask for something so ridiculous during this economic period or the fact that Oakland Township and Rochester Hills actually approved it! How clueless are these people.

    When told by Rochester they could use the extra money for core senior citizen services, The OPC said they were fully funded and didnt need the extra money there. I have an idea….How about retunr it to the taxpayers.

    Keep up the good work Jeff…

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