Grand Traverse County Commissioners Approve Pension and Health Insurance Changes

At the end of the year, Grand Traverse County will have owe more than $58 million dollars liability for retiree pensions and health care.

Last week County Administrator Tom Menzel presented two proposals to commissioners that could save the county an estimated $700,000.

Tonight they approved a plan to have non-union employees to contribute 10 percent to their pension plans.

They also will raise county employee’s health insurance co-pay to 20-percent.

Grand Traverse County Commissioners approving a pair of plans they hope are the first of many steps to solve the nearly sixty million dollar pension and health care debt facing the county.  County employees voiced strong opposition to both plans.

 “You are putting people in poverty by making this decision tonight. Don’t rush this decision, we have time we can do better than this,” said Carol Stocking.  It’s a game changer. It’s a game changer in that if you look at the numbers and you do the math, I think you’ll understand why over the next year maybe two maybe three or five years these 88 employees will probably be gone,” said County Prosecutor Bob Cooney.  “These proposed changes most definitely will decrease our ability to attract hire and train and retain good quality employees,” said Sheriff Tom Bensley.  

Some commissioners expressed concern that these plans only add to the problem, and could mean employees retire sooner, and make the pension liability larger.

“We’re not looking at the ripple effect of what’s going to probably happen here, and that’s that many of these people in fact most of them will go at the very first second they can go and retire,” said Commissioner Carol Crawford.  

But others felt making difficult decisions now will help the county long term.

“At some point we have to stop the bleeding, yes it sucks, and there may be no other way to do it but to have to effect pay, but we are going to have to do it,” said Commissioner Dr. Bob Johnson.

“I know it hurts people. This is just one of the many pieces of patchwork we’ve got to put together to keep this county solvent,” said Commissioner Dr. Dan Lathrop.  

The new plan goes into effect, January 1st.