35 UP municipal systems receive pension grants

Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 10:10 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2023 at 10:32 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - Thirty-five Upper Michigan municipal systems are receiving a total of $68 million in pension grant awards from the state.

In her announcement Wednesday morning, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says this is putting dollars back into the pockets of retirees and offsetting costs for local communities, keeping them from having to divert funds from critical public services. More than $553 million in pension grant awards are being sent to 123 Michigan communities.

“After a lifetime of hard work, Michigan seniors deserve to retire with dignity,” said Whitmer in a press release. “Today’s Protecting MI Pension Grants will ensure that Michiganders who served our communities as police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers, and in so many other invaluable professions, will receive the stable, secure retirement that they earned. I am proud that earlier this year, I signed legislation rolling back the retirement tax on our seniors, saving half a million households an average of $1,000 a year, putting money back in their pockets for gas, groceries, or gifts for their grandkids. Today, we are continuing to deliver on our promise to Michigan’s seniors and shoring up municipal budgets across the state. Let’s keep putting money back in people’s pockets and building a brighter future.”

The Protecting MI Pension Grant Program was created to help Michigan’s underfunded municipal systems. Under the Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget, the Michigan Department of Treasury was appropriated dollars to establish and operate a program for qualified retirement systems that were underfunded as outlined in state law.

Under the grant program, eligible cities, villages, townships, counties, and road commissions were encouraged to review their retirement system funding and apply for a grant by mid-June. A complete list of grant award communities can be found online.

The City of Norway is receiving $3,732,854 - the highest amount awarded to a U.P. community.

“We were very excited to receive the news that we would be a recipient of the Protecting MI Pension Grant Program,” said Dan Stoltman, city manager of the city of Norway, in a press release. “Helping us get to the 60% funded status makes the light at the end of the tunnel a little closer and a lot brighter for our future.”

The City of Ishpeming is receiving $1,776,032.

“We are truly committed to our current and former employees, and once the audit revealed our system was underfunded, we knew we had to take care of the City of Ishpeming retirees, who served this community and its residents, so they can have a secure retirement,” said Craig Cugini, city manager of Ishpeming, in a press release. “The first step in turning things around included bonding our pension with taxable bonds to help fund the program, bringing us to 95 percent in MERS funding, which set us apart from other municipalities facing a similar situation. And then when the Michigan Treasury grant became available, we recognized the funding opportunity as yet another way to ensure our former and current employees are taken care of.”

“Ishpeming took control of a situation that many municipalities were facing several years ago, with market fluctuations causing severe drops in pension fund levels across the country,” said State Rep. Jenn Hill (D-Marquette). “The early step to bond the pension, starting in 2021 and concluding in 2022, shows the city’s commitment to its retired public service members. The additional funding secured once available through the state in 2023 shows its strategic know-how in navigating resources for its community.”

Local UnitLocal Government TypeCountyRetirement SystemAward Amount
Baraga County Road CommissionRoad CommissionBaragaMERS$159,316
Village of BaragaVillageBaragaMERS$770,791
Village of L’AnseVillageBaragaMERS$833,070
Chippewa County Road CommissionRoad CommissionChippewaMERS$1,991,054
City of Sault Ste. MarieCityChippewaPolice and Firefighters Pension System$2,636,455
Village of DeTourVillageChippewaMERS$116,718
City of GladstoneCityDeltaMERS$259,619
Delta County Road CommissionRoad CommissionDeltaMERS$624,052
City of Iron MountainCityDickinsonMERS$3,237,632
City of NorwayCityDickinsonMERS$3,732,854
Dickinson CountyCountyDickinsonMERS$55,783
Dickinson County Road CommissionRoad CommissionDickinsonMERS$1,276,803
City of IronwoodCityGogebicMERS$1,158,344
City of WakefieldCityGogebicMERS$260,102
Gogebic County Road CommissionRoad CommissionGogebicGogebic County Employee Retirement System$364,250
Village of Lake LindenVillageHoughtonMERS$156,174
Bates TownshipTownshipIronMERS$70,486
City of Crystal FallsCityIronMERS$346,242
City of GaastraCityIronMERS$23,597
City of Iron RiverCityIronMERS$629,183
Iron County Road CommissionRoad CommissionIronMERS$851,132
Keweenaw County Road CommissionRoad CommissionKeweenawMERS$428,698
Luce CountyCountyLuceMERS$395,470
Luce County Road CommissionRoad CommissionLuceMERS$1,765,542
Village of NewberryVillageLuceMERS$29,140
City of St. IgnaceCityMackinacMERS$370,873
City of IshpemingCityMarquetteMERS$1,776,032
City of MarquetteCityMarquetteMERS$704,412
City of NegauneeCityMarquetteMERS$969,575
Marquette County Road CommissionRoad CommissionMarquetteMERS$3,626,838
Ontonagon County Road CommissionRoad CommissionOntonagonMERS$2,968,071
Village of OntonagonVillageOntonagonMERS$1,952,964
City of ManistiqueCitySchoolcraftMERS$2,384,317
Schoolcraft CountyCountySchoolcraftMERS$510,929
Schoolcraft County Road CommissionRoad CommissionSchoolcraftMERS$1,817,235