Michigan’s broken legacy

The long-term “legacy” debts that are crushing Detroit’s finances are also looming over other Michigan cities. Should cities slash retirement benefits? Raise taxes? It’s a crisis that is pitting retired municipal workers against city homeowners and businesses.

Detroit – coming to a city near you

As headlines mount for the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy, Detroit is now the undisputed punching bag for all that can go wrong in a community. But just how immune is the rest of Michigan to Detroit’s biggest liability – […]

Read Ted Roelofs's article

As Kalamazoo stalled, its neighbor curbed retiree health-care costs

KALAMAZOO/PORTAGE – A quick drive through Kalamazoo and its bordering neighbor to the south, Portage, reveals some obvious differences. Others are less so. Kalamazoo, older and more ethnically diverse, has its share of historic downtown buildings, a mix of vintage and blue-collar […]

Read Ted Roelofs's article

Searchable database: Legacy costs in your community

Legacy costs are commitments made in the past that will be paid by future generations. The two biggest forms of legacy costs for local governments in Michigan are pensions and health care insurance for retired public workers. Michigan has nearly 1,800 units […]

Read Bridge Magazine's article

Economy falters, with no easy answers for Saginaw

SAGINAW – Standing by the weed-choked vacant lot next to her home, Saginaw resident Linda Williams had a simple question. “Couldn’t they cut it at least one time?” she asked. “I don’t like it. You don’t know if somebody is laying in […]

Read Ted Roelofs's article

Retirees sweat as courts weigh cuts to pension and health care

It’s a battle cry that began in Detroit and is spreading to other Michigan cities: “Don’t touch my pension.” To that, many of the state’s retired municipal employees are adding another caveat: “And leave my medical insurance alone, too.” With Detroit in […]

Read Pat Shellenbarger's article

Debt-ridden Detroit has close company

A decade of recession hit one region – southeast Michigan – harder than anywhere else. So perhaps it’s no surprise unfunded pension and retiree health-care debt is concentrated there as well, in a long list of cities that extends well beyond Detroit […]

Read Ted Roelofs's article

How retirement debt swallowed our towns

Back in the 1950s, when Detroit’s automobile industry ruled, few gave much thought to the long-term price of fringe benefits like pensions or retiree health care. The post-World War II auto boom was a model of modern manufacturing, creating jobs from Detroit […]

Read Ted Roelofs's article

Small towns, big problems

KALKASKA -Seated at her kitchen table, Virginia Thomas confessed she is less trusting than she used to be. Thomas, 75, worked nearly 30 years for the rural northern Michigan Village of Kalkaska, serving as everything from secretary to clerk to co-manager. She […]

Read Ted Roelofs's article

In downsized Flint, desperate retirees vs. struggling taxpayers

When Patty Tokar’s husband, Steve, retired from Flint’s sewer department in 1996, the couple figured they wouldn’t collect a large pension, but at least they’d have generous health insurance. That was before Flint’s emergency financial manager cut health insurance coverage last year […]

Read Pat Shellenbarger's article

Michigan needs vibrant communities to attract business

Michigan native Kate McEnroe travels the country helping companies decide where to locate new manufacturing plants and offices. Firms typically weigh factors like access to transportation and customers, land and wage costs and the skill level of the labor pool. But one […]

Read Ted Roelofs's article

Oakland County proposes legacy solution

Not long after Robert Daddow came to work for Oakland County 20 years ago, a couple of elected officials suggested the county should stop setting aside money for its retirees’ health insurance. No law required Michigan’s local governments to prefund the health […]

Read Pat Shellenbarger's article

Two cities that took control of retiree costs

They are the exceptions, but leaders in a handful of Michigan cities and towns foresaw the financial crisis that would overwhelm their communities if they didn’t begin setting aside enough money to pay the pensions and health insurance they promised workers when […]

Read Pat Shellenbarger's article

You’re the Mayor

Tell us how cities can reduce worker retirement costs So you’ve read Bridge’s fairly terrifying report about how Michigan cities and towns have failed to fund employees’ pension and health-care plans, sometimes ignoring the problem for decades. The result: billions of dollars […]

Read Bridge Magazine's article

A steady job, with fewer perks

Tim Bradshaw knew he was entering a working world much different from that of his parents when he accepted a job more than 2 years ago with the City of Kentwood. Unlike many of his older coworkers, he would not earn credit […]

Read Pat Shellenbarger's article

State neglect has worsened communities’ legacy-cost crisis

Bridge Magazine’s recent series examining unfunded municipal pension and health care costs was indeed “fairly terrifying,” as one of the stories concluded. But also terrifying are four directly related issues that went largely uncovered by the stories. First, the State of Michigan’s […]

Read the article

Invest in non-partisan journalism.

Donate to The Center for Michigan. Find out why.