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Pension funding awarded to UP towns, road commissions

LANSING, MI— Thirty-five Upper Peninsula municipalities and road commissions are getting state grants to fund their retirement systems.

The money comes through the Protecting MI Pension Grant Program. 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. Eligible cities, villages, townships, counties, and road commissions were encouraged to review their retirement system funding and apply for a grant by mid-June.

The City of Norway was granted $3,732,854.

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

The City Ishpeming is getting $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, Ishpeming City Manager. “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.”

“The City of Sault Ste. Marie Police and Firefighters Pension is very pleased to be awarded $2,636,455 from the Protecting MI Pension Grant Program,” said Kristin M. Collins, finance director/treasurer of the city of Sault Ste. Marie. “The award is the full amount of our request and the maximum allowable amount that would bring the fund out of underfunded status. While funding levels have improved over the past five years, increasing from 52 percent to 57 percent, it’s a slow climb and this infusion will provide a boost that the fund really needed.”

In a press release, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said, “After a lifetime of hard work, Michigan seniors deserve to retire with dignity. 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.”

Upper Peninsula entities that received grant funding are as follows:

Baraga County Road Commission- $159,316

Baraga, village of- $770,791

Bates Township- $70,486

Chippewa County Road Commission- $1,991,054

Crystal Falls, City of- $346,242

Delta County Road Commission- $624,052

DeTour, village of- $116,718

Dickinson County- $55,783

Dickinson County Road Commission- $1,276,803

Gaastra, City of- $23,597

Gladstone, City of- $259,619

Gogebic County Road Commission- $364,250

Iron County Road Commission- $851,132

Iron Mountain, City of- $3,237,632

Iron River, City of- $629,183

Ironwood, City of- $1,158,344

Ishpeming, City of- $1,776,032

Keweenaw County Road Commission- $428,698

Lake Linden, village of- $156,174

L'Anse, village of- $833,070

Luce County- $395,470

Luce County Road Commission- $1,765,542

Manistique, City of- $2,384,317

Marquette County Road Commission- $3,626,838

Marquette, City of- $704,412

Negaunee, City of- $969,575

Newberry, village of- $29,140

Norway, City of- $3,732,854

Ontonagon County Road Commission- $2,968,071

Ontonagon, village of- $1,952,964

Sault Ste Marie, City of- $2,636,455

Schoolcraft County- $510,929

Schoolcraft County Road Commission- $1,817,235

St. Ignace, City of- $370,873

Wakefield, City- $260,102

Nicole was born near Detroit but has lived in the U.P. most of her life. She graduated from Marquette Senior High School and attended Michigan State and Northern Michigan Universities, graduating from NMU in 1993 with a degree in English.