Treasurer opening prompts retirement questions

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR– There are more than enough qualified applicants in the City of Taylor’s search for a new treasurer. The question is: How much will it cost the financially-strapped city?

Seven people applied to replace Wayne Avery, 71, who last month made official his resignation after spending 16 years behind the treasurer’s desk. Avery’s departure, effective June 9, left open a vacancy for the remainder of his four-year term which began in 2009.

During its June 21 meeting, the Taylor City Council invited those interested in the position to apply by June 24. Applicants include Councilwoman Jacklyn Molner, former mayor Donald Zub, and former treasurer Fred Kemp.

Before debating the merits of the individual applicants, members of the City Council had to consider retirement and benefits-related costs should Molner be appointed treasurer. Molner would, under city policy, be eligible for enhanced pension benefits if selected to fill the $64,000-a-year treasurer’s job.

That conversation, according to council chair Cheryl Burke, took first priority over discussion of Molner’s ability.

“It was interesting to watch the attorneys try to figure out what would happen under different scenarios,” Burke said. “It’s questionable, at best.”

Molner has served the city for 14 years, and is eligible for a pension that, as of July 1, would entitle her to $675 a month if she retires before June 2012; after that date, her anticipated pension would reportedly be $771 a month. Under the current ordinance, if she is appointed and fills the treasurer’s position for two years, her pension would be an estimated $1,500 monthly.

“I’m not trying to enhance my pension,” said Molner, who plans to clarify the city’s pension rules prior to further consideration for the treasurer’s position. “I’m working to not enhance my pension. I want [council] to know what they’re voting for, what the legal ramifications are. The fiscally responsible thing to do is decline any enhancement.”

As of Thursday, Molner was awaiting word from corporate counsel and municipal attorneys before an anticipated study session on Tuesday.

Personnel costs, including retirement packages, account for roughly 80 percent of Taylor’s budget, Burke said, a situation that challenged city officials and was a factor in the decision to lay off 48 municipal employees.

“The pension board is struggling with the rules,” Burke said. “What are the laws, and what is the process that would have to take place.” Burke said that different options were presented last week for council consideration, including potential waivers by Molner and what scenarios are available under Michigan case law. Among the applicants, pension considerations for both Zub and Kemp could also factor in their being appointed to complete the treasurer’s term of office.

Burke said Thursday she hoped to meet the applicants Tuesday prior to the council meeting, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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