Rochester Sends Alternate Budget to OPC
They call for a compromise and also agree to review interlocal agreement that governs OPC.
Councilmembers also said they weren't interested in pursuing a lawsuit against the OPC. They voted to form a subcommittee to review the interlocal agreement that governs the organization.
Since the OPC budget was submitted to all three governing communities in the fall, the Rochester City Council has voted against it, while Rochester Hills and Oakland Township voted in favor of it. Much of the discussion Monday night revolved around whether the municipal parties should be reviewing line items like pay increases or just look look at the budget's bottom line.
“The agreement is silent ... there is no restriction as to the level of detail for the budget approval,” Rochester City Attorney Jeffrey Kragt said. “It doesn’t say that this body and Rochester Hills and Oakland Township can only look at the bottom line.”
Councilmember Kim Russell abstained from the vote Monday night (OPC executive director Marye Miller is Russell's mom) while all others voted in favor. Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Cuthbertson was absent. The revisions will now be sent on to the OPC board for consideration. The council requested the OPC put the topic on its next meeting’s agenda for a vote. The board meets at 4 p.m. Feb. 2. If the OPC board decides to make the changes to its budget, they would then need to re-submit the new budgets to Oakland Township and Rochester Hills for approval.
The alternate plan that was proposed by councilmember Steve Sage and approved includes:
- Provision for a one-time, 1 percent bonus.
- Deference of step increases in pay.
- Reduction in a payment in lieu of health care benefits from $8,400 to $3,000.
- Continuation of a previously agreed upon pension plan with a matching option.
“I think both sides need to compromise, I think this is a pretty good compromise,” Mayor Stuart Bikson said. “Again, nobody is happy. I’m not happy, I assume the OPC board won’t be happy, but I think people need to show leadership and vote and move on with this.”
The Rochester City Council has cited a 17.5 percent pay increase for Miller as one reason for objecting the budget. Miller attended the meeting and addressed the board, explaining that the raise is 1 percent and that people are being misled.
“I am getting 1 percent … 17 percent is a down and outright lie,” Miller said. “I got last year 6 percent for benefits, I was supposed to be getting them in 2012, the same I got in 2011 and we got the other benefits in 2011 that we’re getting in 2012.”
Bikson responded to Miller’s explanation, clarifying the 17 percent figure.
“I think the 17 percent comes from 6 percent 401K, the $8,400 payment in lieu, and the 1 percent pay increase — that comes out to what I understand is 17 percent," Bikson said.
"Those are the facts.”
The council also voted in favor of forming a subcommittee to look into ways to improve the current interlocal system and Kragt addressed options the governing bodies have for reworking the interlocal agreement.
Many members agreed that the language of the agreement needed to be reviewed to avoid similar conflicts in the future when not all parties can agree. Kragt suggested requiring the OPC board to host a special meeting immediately following one of the municipalities' rejection of its budget.
“I think if this agreement were opened up it would be a good opportunity to put clarifying language in there,” Kragt said.
No lawsuit pending
At a council meeting in December, Kragt noted that if the OPC opened in January without the approved budget then they would be in violation of state law. After an OPC representative rose at the meeting, warning of the ramifications for taxpayers if the cities were to go to court for the matter, councilmembers assured the audience it is not in their interest to participate in a lawsuit.
“I don’t think the city of Rochester has any intention of filing a lawsuit,” Bikson said.
Councilmember David Zemens agreed.
“We’re all big boys and girls; we can work it out,” Zemens said.