Still no deal on Rochester OPC budget

As the clock ticks down toward Dec. 31, neither side has yet blinked in the standoff over the Rochester Older Persons Commission budget.

Rochester City Council met Monday and scheduled a special meeting for Dec. 29 in the hopes that a compromise will be offered that will keep the OPC operational after Jan. 1. The city’s attorney has said he doesn’t believe the OPC can legally spend money in the new fiscal year without an approved budget.

The OPC Governing Board, Rochester Hills City Council and Oakland Township’s Board of Trustees have all approved an OPC budget for 2012. Only Rochester City Council has not. The dispute is over a 1-percent pay raise, step increases and payment in lieu of health insurance.

Rochester City Attorney Jeff Kragt said Monday that if there is no agreement and the OPC keeps operating, the city could appeal to Michigan’s Attorney General for an opinion based on the state’s Uniform Budgeting and Accounting Act, or the city could seek an injunction in circuit court. Under the terms of an interlocal agreement between the three municipalities, council could also vote to withdraw the city from membership in the OPC. City residents would then have to pay a nonmember fee to participate.

On Tuesday, after receiving a call from Rochester Mayor Stuart Bikson, OPC Governing Board Chairman John Dalton said he had been calling OPC board members to see what they want to do. “So far it appears the majority want to leave it as it is,” he said. If there is no new proposal by Dec. 29, Rochester City Council will cancel the special meeting.

Dalton also said that if he is elected chairman of the OPC board again next year, he is willing to revisit the payment in lieu of health insurance.

The interlocal agreement provides no guidance on what to do if the three communities disagree. Though the OPC has a voted millage in each of the three communities, Rochester Councilman Jeff Cuthbertson argued Monday that it has no authority to spend tax dollars without all three communities’ consent.

“The OPC has no power to tax,” Cuthbertson said. “The tax dollars that it receives have to come through the power to tax of the sovereign communities.”

Councilman David Zemens was concerned about what comes next.

“I’m left to ask the question; what now?” he said. “I have no interest in seeing the OPC broken apart in some fashion; I have no interest in seeing the doors close January 1.”

Councilman Ben Giovanelli argued that the OPC is raising fees on seniors, along with employees’ pay. Dalton said that is incorrect; rather, income from fees is increasing because participation is increasing. He said the budget for Meals on Wheels is decreased from 2011 because “some of the federal dollars didn’t come in. But we’ll make that up with some of our fund-raisers.”

“There has never been any increase in fees or cuts in programs,” Dalton said.

He also called “absolutely, positively false” Giovanelli’s statement that the 2012 budget gives OPC Executive Director Marye Miller an overall increase of 17.5 percent. He said she’ll get a 1-percent raise, like all OPC employees. A pension plan and payment in lieu of health insurance are in the 2011 budget and already being paid, he said. The pension plan is not currently being disputed by Rochester City Council.

A subcommittee of the OPC board is working on amendments to the interlocal agreement and is hoping to be ready to present a proposal to the OPC board at its January meeting. But it now appears getting agreement on any changes will be difficult. Several Rochester councilmembers indicated Monday that they want Rochester to have equal representation with Rochester Hills on the OPC board. The current alignment of board members and financial contribution is based on population, with Rochester Hills having four of the eight seats on the OPC board.

“Moving forward, we do need to do a better job of making sure our voice counts,” Councilwoman Cathy Daldin said.

Comments

  1. Ben Giovanelli says

    With all due respect to my colleague from Oakland Township (which seems to be a one way transaction these days), the OPC Director is receiving an $8,400 payment in lieu, a $4,600 pension contribution and a $788 raise. She will go from $78,676 in total comp to $92,464. 17.52%.

    We seem to be suffering from the same problem the City of Rochester had with its former City Manager. Someone who came in and did some really great things but somewhere along the way got a little too used to the unchecked power and running things his way. Sadly all those great things were wiped away in an instant. Hate to see that happen again.

    The spin has to end. The OPC needs to step up and decide what is important.

    Ben Giovanelli, CPA
    Rochester City Council
    (You know, that really tiny city that needs to mind its own business, just shut up and pay. Yes that city.)

  2. I’m curious as to the REAL concern of Rochester. This is the second time Rochester has threatened to sue over some issue. I can’t believe they are willing to shut down OPC because of the stated reasons. What’s the real concern? Perhaps if they would state that, we might be able to resolve the issue.

    Regarding the idea of Rochester having the same representation as Rochester Hills, why not just ask for twice as many seats as Rochester Hills,since there is no logic to the request in the first place – just because? What’s wrong with representation based on contribution?

    Orville Hoksch
    Rochester Hills resident

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