Rochester City Council is offering a compromise aimed at ending the standoff over the Rochester Older Persons Commission’s 2012 budget.
Council voted 5-0 Monday in support of a budget that would give OPC employees a 1-percent bonus and continue the current pension plan. But the offer eliminates step increases in 2012 and reduces the budget’s payment to employees in lieu of
The OPC operates under an interlocal agreement between Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township. The agreement requires that all three municipalities’
elected bodies approve a budget that is prepared by the OPC’s own governing board. This is the first time a community has objected to the budget. Rochester Hills and Oakland Township have already approved the OPC budget. Rochester has been objecting to employee pay and benefit provisions.
John Dalton, chairman of the OPC board, attended Monday’s meeting. Afterwards, he said he doesn’t know how his board will react.
“I really don’t have any reaction at this point,” he said. “We will consider it at our next board meeting.”
Council also voted to appoint a committee to study the interlocal agreement and recommend changes. Mayor Stuart Bikson will appoint members to the committee at a future council meeting.
The agreement can only be changed if all three municipalities’ elect
ed bodies agree. The OPC board has its own committee working on proposed changes as well. Dalton said its recommendations are expected to be presented in February or March.
The dispute between Rochester City Council and the OPC has been simm
ering for a year. First, it was a disputed vote at the end of 2010 to initiate a pension plan some felt was overly generous. The OPC board rescinded that vote and approved a reduced plan. In 2011, the OPC board approved the 1-percent raises, step increases and payment in lieu of health insurance for inclusion in the 2012 budget. Rochester’s two representatives on t
he OPC board said no, as did city council.
The discussion at city council has been particularly contentious because Councilwoman Kim Russell’s mother, Marye Miller, is the longtime executive director of the OPC. Monday night, Russell abstained from voting on the motion, against council’s wishes and in apparent violation of the city charter.
Things got so heated Monday night that Miller accused council of deliberately misleading the public on how big her compensation increase would be under the proposed 2012 budget.
“People are being misled, and I don’t know by whom, about what we’ve received and what we are getting in 2012,” she said. “I am not going to sit here and listen to
people say that I get a 17-percent increase. That is a down and outright lie. And it came from this area right here in front of me.” The reference was to the members of council.
Bikson said it was probably the first time that had ever happened. “Even after hearing that, I am still optimistic we can work through this,” he said.
The good news is that several council members said they would not support a lawsuit to resolve the budget dispute. The city sued the OPC once before over a different matter and lost.
“I have absolutely no intention of voting in favor of any lawsuit or litigation aga
inst the OPC,” Councilman Dave Zemens said. “We’re all big boys and girls. We can work this out.”