Signed into law last spring, G...
HOLLY TOWNSHIP, Michigan – Holly Township officials won’t be participating in Public Act 152 after four of the five member board voted in favor of opting out of the mandate during its Dec. 19 meeting.
Signed into law last spring, Gov. Rick Snyder says PA 152 is needed to bring a “fair and equitable approach that brings public employee benefits more in line with the private sector.” Snyder maintains that getting these unsustainable costs under control now helps ensure Michigan’s long-term future, and will allow all Michigan citizens to move forward together.
Effective Jan. 1, PA 152 puts a limit or a “hard cap” on the amount a public employer such as a city, county or township can pay for employees’ health benefits. Under the law, employees are responsible for paying 20 percent of their healthcare premiums. As such, public employers are limited from paying more than $5,692.50 for health benefits annually for a single employee, $11,385 for an employee and his/her spouse, or $15,525 for family coverage.
During the Dec. 19 meeting, Clerk Karin Winchester said the “hard cap” amount is determined by multiplying the dollar amount as specified by the law, by the number of township employees falling within each of the respective categories. While Winchester didn’t have the exact Holly Township figures available, she assured board members that the township falls under the hard cap as specified by the law.
“I know in the case of the North Oakland County Fire Authority, we made the choice to opt out because we only have two individuals who are covered by the plan, and they worked with the insurance agent to find a plan that save us the same amount that they would have to pay in, so we decided to postpone putting the 20-percent into effect because they had already done work to achieve the difference,” Trustee Janet Leslie said.
Winchester said Holly Township had taken similar measures.
“Refresh my memory – how much did we save by making that change?” Leslie asked.
“I want to say $20,000 but I’d have to look – actually, we did it a couple years in a row,” Winchester said, adding that even though the township falls under the hard cap, the board doesn’t necessarily have to opt out.
“Personally, I don’t believe that the state should be mandating what the people do with their employees anyway,” Winchester said. “It should be up to the local units of government that hire people – you negotiate with your employees to keep them.”
“My only concern, and I think part of the reason why the bill passed to require 20 percent is because it’s still less than what many employees would have to pay for their medical expenses in private industry,” Leslie said. “I like the intent that people who are elected officials shouldn’t have better benefits than those who can’t afford them – the tax payers,” she added. “But if we’ve already saved that money, I wish we had something in front of us that we could take a look at.”
With that, Winchester made the motion to opt out of PA 152. The motion was supported by Treasurer Mark Freeman.
“I just want to say in full disclosure to the board that I don’t feel comfortable in voting on this without having the numbers in front of me and knowing what the difference would be in terms of what the township has to pay for medical coverage – what we saved, or where we were before, and what people have to pay because the employees are not providing that 20 percent,” Leslie said. “I don’t feel comfortable voting on this until I see those numbers.”
Supervisor Dale Smith asked Winchester if the matter could be postponed. Winchester said the board had until Jan. 1 to render its decision.
“I understand your concerns, and certainly I think a lot of people would echo that sentiment,” Trustee Mark Cornwell said. “But it does sound as if we are under the hard cap, and if we are under the hard cap – we are meeting the spirit of this, and that’s good.”
In a vote of 4-1, Holly Township officials voted in favor of opting out of PA 152 with Leslie casting the dissenting vote.