CASS COUNTY – Contract changes continue to be made for unionized employees in Cass County.
The Cass County Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved a motion to approve a collective bargaining agreement between the county, the Police Officers Labor Board, Sergeants and the Sheriff for a contract through Dec. 31, 2025. The motion has passed 5-1, with Commissioner Jeremiah Jones voting against and Commissioner Robert Benjamin absent from the meeting.
Ahead of the motion’s approval, Cass County Deputy Chief Financial Officer Becky Moore told the board that the contract, which was ratified by the sergeants unit on Thursday afternoon, would include a $3 pay raise. % for all periods except one – which was a 5% increase.
“It is our effort to bring all public safety [workers] in the county to a level where we are more competitive with surrounding counties and the competition that we face,” Moore said.
Similar to most other contracts the county and unions have negotiated, sergeants will also have their pension plan converted to a defined contribution plan from a defined benefit plan. Previous contracts negotiated with the county by the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council and Command Officers Association of Michigan have already switched to the defined contribution plan.
The only union able to negotiate for their employees to keep their defined benefit plan was the Cass County Independent Employees Association, which negotiated on behalf of court and general unit employees. This plan does, however, include a trigger event, which will result in the conversion from the DB plan to the CD plan if certain conditions are met.
According to the US Department of Labor, a defined benefit plan promises a fixed monthly benefit upon retirement. A defined contribution plan, on the other hand, does not promise specific retirement benefits. In these plans, either the employee or the employer (or both) contribute to the employee’s individual investment account under the plan, such as a 401(k).
As previous contracts were approved, County Administrator Jeff Carmen said such changes were necessary to reduce the county’s $12.5 million unfunded liability with the [Michigan Municipal Employees’ Retirement System].
According to Moore, the sergeant unit will also see an increase in transition pay for retirement, from $2,000 to $10,000. Commissioner Jeremiah Jones asked if employees could take that money and put it into their DC plan as a tax-free deduction.
“He will be paid on the last day before the conversion,” Moore said. “They have the option of taking it as salary or putting it in their 457 [plan] and save taxes.
The only collective agreement that has not yet been completed and approved by the council concerns the patrollers.