Cass Co. approves raise, pension change for sergeants unit

Published 4:17 pm Friday, April 8, 2022

CASS COUNTY — Contract changes continue to come for union employees in Cass County.

The Cass County Board of Commissioners approved a motion on Thursday to approve a collective bargaining agreement between the county, Police Officers Labor Council, sergeants and sheriff for a contract through Dec. 31, 2025. The motion passed 5-1, with Commissioner Jeremiah Jones voting against and Commissioner Robert Benjamin absent from the meeting.

Prior to the approval of the motion, Cass County Deputy Finance Director Becky Moore informed the board that the contract, which was ratified by the sergeants’ unit Thursday afternoon, would include a 3-percent increases in pay for all periods except one — which was a 5-percent increase.

“That’s our effort to bring all the public safety [workers] in the county up to a standard where we’re more competitive with surrounding counties and the competition that we face there,” Moore said. 

Similar to most other contracts the county and unions have negotiated, the sergeants also will have their pension plan converted to a defined contribution plan from a defined benefit plan. Previous contracts negotiated with the county by the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council and Command Officers Association of Michigan have already switched to the defined contribution plan. 

The only union able to negotiate for their employees to retain their DB plan has been the Cass County Independent Employees Association, which negotiated on behalf of courts employees and general unit employees. That plan, however, includes a trigger event, which will cause the DB plan to convert to a DC plan should certain conditions be met.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a defined benefit plan promises a specified monthly benefit at retirement. A defined contribution plan, on the other hand, does not promise specific benefits at retirement. In these plans, the employee or the employer (or both) contribute to the employee’s individual investment account under the plan – such as a 401(k).

As previous contracts were approved, County Administrator Jeff Carmen said such changes were necessary to reduce the county’s $12.5 million unfunded liability with the [Michigan Municipal Employees’ Retirement System].

According to Moore, the sergeants unit will also see an increase in transition bonus for the retirement, from $2,000 to $10,000. Commissioner Jeremiah Jones asked if employees could take that money and put it into their DC plan as a tax-free deduction.

“It will be paid on the last day before conversion,” Moore said. “They have the opportunity to either take it as pay, or they can put it into their 457 [plan] and save the taxes.”

The lone collective bargaining agreement yet to be completed and approved by the board is for patrol officers.