Commission earmarks millions from tax fund to improve county’s financial position

The Wayne County Commission took steps Dec. 3 to improve the funding level of the county’s pension system, which was one of the key trouble areas cited in a state fiscal review that resulted in a financial emergency being declared for the county earlier this year.

The commission approved adding $10 million to the pension trust fund as part of a transfer of $103 million in surplus revenues from the Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund administered by the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office.

Another $20 million was earmarked by the commission for the county’s Budget Stabilization Fund.

Along with setting aside this money for uses to be determined, having it in the Budget Stabilization Fund will increase transparency in how the money is used. Additional budget adjustments will be required before it can be used, so it will be easier to see where it will wind up going, Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak said.

An underfunded pension system, reported at less than 50 percent, was one of the primary reasons Wayne County wound up with a consent agreement with the state to address the financial situation.

“Improving the funding level of pension system is a very important part of stabilizing county finances and the eventual ending of the consent agreement,” said Woronchak (D-Dearborn) who is a member of the Wayne County Employees’ Retirement System board.

The $10 million, on an actuarial liability basis, could translate to $44 million in value with investment returns over 25 years, according to the commission’s fiscal staff.

Of the nearly $103 million from the delinquent tax fund, more than $64.3 million will be put toward eliminating the county’s accumulated deficit. Also, $7.7 million is being used for collective bargaining agreement adjustments and $1 million will go to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for prosecutions related to the testing of sexual assault kits that had been found stored in a Detroit Police Department warehouse.

Also, the commission voted unanimously Dec. 3 to devote an additional nearly $2 million from a U.S. Department of Justice grant to help fund the rape kit prosecution.