Officials increase retirement contributions

REED CITY — In order to receive the best return on their money, Osceola County officials are contributing more to retirement funds in 2017.

Osceola County Commissioners approved contributing an additional $100,000 to its Municipal Employees' Retirement System funds for 2017 during their second Committee of the Whole meeting of the month on Tuesday at the Osceola County Courthouse.

Officials already budgeted to contribute an extra $20,000 for the year. However, County Clerk Karen Bluhm has expressed concern that officials should contribute more.

"Our overall ratio of funding for the end of 2015-16 was 83 percent, down from 85 percent the year before," she told commissioners. "As more people retire and draw from the system, our percentages are going to drop."

Bluhm said the latest update from MERS' board of directors noted the rate of return for the first quarter of the year was 11.1 percent. The average portfolio has a return rate between 7 and 9 percent, the county clerk said.

"I know we've already budgeted $20,000 for this year, as we've done in the past two or three years," she said. "I would like to add $80,000 to that portfolio if possible."

Bluhm added the return on the investment would help not only to fund employees' retirements, but help decrease the deficit in the fund for years to come.

"The rate of return is much better than we can get locally," she said. "I believe it's time and this is an opportunity for us to get in the market and make our money worth more and help with the liability that is a burden on the county."

Treasurer Lori Leudeman added she is interested in finding out if some departments would like to increase their MERS contributions in the next budget year.

"With that kind of rate of 11.1 percent; with our investments we're seeing between 1 and 2 percent," she said. "It would make sense to use some of the delinquent tax fund for this and it would bring our liability down much quicker."

In other action from Tuesday's committee meeting, officials approved:

n Purchasing kitchen equipment from Webstaurant Store for $6,590 for the Marion COA building's serving kitchen;

n Accepting additional funds from the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan for the Older Americans Act for 2017; and

n The 2017 Emergency Management Plan as required by the state.

Items approved during the Committee of the Whole meeting were later approved by the Board of Commissioners.

The next Committee of the Whole meeting is set for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 4, at the Osceola County Courthouse.