Archived Story

Berrien County: Governor’s revenue sharing plan a hard sell

Published 6:04pm Friday, February 17, 2012

ST. JOSEPH — Berrien County Commissioners aren’t buying the statutory revenue sharing plan outlined in Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2013 budget.

The governor is recommending an appropriation of $125.6 million, which is $42 million less than statutorily required, according to the Michigan Association of Counties. Berrien County would receive about $2.7 million.

In order to receive their funding, counties must meet the same best practices criteria required of cities, villages and townships under the Economic Vitality Incentive Program.

The county would receive around $900,000 for each of the three best practices criteria it meets.

According to Berrien County Administrator Bill Wolf, the county is already meeting the criteria for two of the three best practices: providing accountability and transparency and consolidation of services.

In order to meet the third criteria, the county would have to overhaul its employee compensation package in a way Wolf said would cripple the county’s ability to attract educated, talented personnel.

The county would have to implement a 10 percent hard cap on employer pension contributions and dramatically decrease pension multipliers for employees, among other changes.

Wolf recommended that the commissioners not implement the steps needed to meet the third criteria. That would mean the county would receive $1.8 million in revenue sharing instead of $2.7 million, assuming the county meets the first two criteria.

“I want to have this discussion so that we don’t have 680 employees that are thinking that their futures are totally up in the air, and that, basically, we’d sell them down the river for $900,000,” Wolf said.

Commissioners in Thursday’s administration committee meeting tended to agree with Wolf’s recommendation.

“This is a sandwich made with moldy bread, and I don’t want to take a bite out of it,” said Commissioner Mac Elliot, District 11.

Commissioner John LaMore, District 12, said he was in favor of current employees keeping compensation plans they had already bargained for and earned. However, he doesn’t believe overhauling the county’s compensation package would keep the county from attracting and retaining good new employees.

Wolf said there is a possibility Snyder’s budget proposal could be changed.

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