New pension ordinance awaits next treasurer

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

Taylor’s next treasurer – yet unchosen from a field of candidates who addressed city council Tuesday – will likely take the position under a new pension policy.

Treasurer Wayne Avery resigned in June from the position he’s held for 16 years. A replacement is to be appointed by council to complete Avery’s four-year term which began in 2009.

Applicants for the position include several current or former city employees, which invited the currently contentious topic of city pensions. The financially-struggling Taylor government has in recent months laid off employees, including public safety workers, and talk of escalated or enhanced pensions have been prominent in recent meetings.

Last week’s meeting included introductory comments from prospective treasurers, which segued to the first reading of a proposed ordinance amendment prohibiting city employees from increasing or enhancing their pensions if elected or appointed to another office after retirement.

Tuesday also included the first reading of a proposed ordinance amendment prohibitting elected or appointed officials from increasing already-accrued benefits.

The amendment was introduced by councilman John Delo, who first proposed the amendment last month. That discussion was tabled pending a review of the policy and how it might apply if councilwoman Jaclyn Molner was selected from among the applicants for treasurer.

Last week, a first reading was approved, and councilwoman Jill Brandana said she would like the amendment to be approved as a referendum for inclusion in the city charter.

“I don’t think it’s enough,” Brandana said of the ordinance revision. “It’s a step in the right direction, but it could be taken away with four votes by council.”

A charter amendment, she said, could not be overruled by a council vote.

Five potential treasurers introduced themselves to council and the community: Molner, former Mayor Donald Zub, Tim Witz, Sheila Gorski-Schulte, and former Treasurer Fred Kemp.

Molner explained her qualifications for the position, and as she has said in previous meetings, she wants the job but doesn’t want to cost the city an unnecessary expense. A 14-year veteran of city service, Molner is currently 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 current ordinance, if she is appointed and fills the treasurer’s position for two years, her pension would be an estimated $1,500 monthly.

Zub told council that, in addition to lengthy service with Taylor, he served as a financial clerk for eight years with Wayne County, and feels qualified for the position. “I look forward to getting back to work for the City of Taylor,” he said.

Others felt that a change was needed at City Hall from the familiar faces vying for the job. Witz, a construction company president active with area youth sports, said that Taylor must accept certain realities if it is to remain viable.

“This is not the city it was 10 years ago,” Witz said. “The world around us is changing, and governments large and small must change.”

Gorski-Schulte told council she has a lot to offer, with a master’s degree and experience with community groups. “The decision to enter public service is not to be taken lightly,” she said. “It’s important to lead by example.”

Kemp, who served for eight years as treasurer, offered to accept no enhancement to his pension if appointed, an offer he admitted may or may not be permissable. (If not, he said he would donate the difference to the city’s general fund.)

“I intend to only serve until the end of the current term,” Kemp said. “After that, it should be up to the voters.”

It was expected that council may reach a decision on the treasurer’s position during their next meeting on Aug. 2, a session that will also include second reading of the pension ordinance revision.

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

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