Wayne County Commission tackles deficit reduction plan

Questions arise about county executive's proposals

Wayne County commissioners met Wednesday to discuss the county executive's deficit reduction proposals.
Wayne County commissioners met Wednesday to discuss the county executive's deficit reduction proposals.

DETROIT – Members of the Wayne County Commission met Wednesday to discuss the deficit reduction plan put forward by county Executive Bob Ficano.

The county is facing a deficit of an estimated $175 million and the threat of a state-appointed emergency manager is looming.

Pay reductions are expected.  A 5 percent across-the-board wage cut is being offered for 70 percent of county workers.

AFSCME President Al Garrett said he wants to see who else is going to have to sacrifice.

"We want to see at the table not just what you are going to do to the workers, but what are we going to do to all of the stakeholders in Wayne County," Garrett asked.

While workers now contribute 3 percent to 6 percent to their pension, all will contribute 7 percent in the future.

Some county unions have already made major concessions, others have made none.

Commissioner Kevin McNamara questioned the fairness of it all.

"We've been balancing the budget on their backs for all these years while we've got the bar association, which has somehow managed to avoid getting any cuts to their compensation," McNamara said.

Ken Wilson, the county's director of labor relations, said the plan attempts to level the playing field.

"We will phase them back to where they were without any concessions. We will take them to that point, then we will reduce them by five percent," Wilson said.

Mike Abbo, the county's chief financial officer, admitted some will oppose the deficit reduction plan, but he said it is much better than having to deal with an emergency manager.

"We all need to take responsibility for it. If we don't take responsibility for it, it becomes a collective problem for all of us and I think their chances are good,"  Abbo said.

The plan only covers those areas which the county commission has control over.

It does not include the sheriff's department, which continually operates over budget , or the county prosecutor's office.

Many of the changes being proposed are being delayed until 2017, to avoid a mass exodus of county employees who are near retirement age.

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