HEADLINES : Michigan
Wayne County taxpayers on hook for $600M as generous pensions drain fund
Wayne County taxpayers face a mounting bill -- now more than $600 million -- to cover the deficits in a county pension plan that was fully funded when County Executive Robert Ficano took office in 2003 but has since taken a steep dive. The plan, with its shrinking assets and vast obligations, is in dire condition, experts say.
Under Ficano, the county's pension plan has been marked by generous benefits, rosy assumptions and accounting changes that mask the plan's troubles.
The most recent audit shows Wayne's pension plan has only 60% of the cash it will need to cover projected monthly checks for retirees during the next 30 years -- the lowest percentage for a major public-employee pension plan in Michigan.
Today, with a committee of the Wayne County Commission set to discuss its troubled pension plan, the options are limited. If the county doesn't borrow millions to shore up the pension, it would have to raise taxes significantly or slash services. With a bond rating one notch above junk status, borrowing would be very expensive.