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Kalamazoo Commissioners appoint task force to tackle legacy costs


KALAMAZOO (WKZO) -- The Kalamazoo City Commission has agreed to appoint a broad-based task force to tackle one of the most vexing issues in Michigan: legacy costs.

The issue has helped drive the city of Detroit into Bankruptcy and a number of other communities to lose local control to an appointed emergency manager.

In Kalamazoo, the issue is how to fund healthcare for retirees.

Vice Mayor Dave Anderson says its not just retirees who will be impacted by the work of the task force. He says just as long as it remains a drag on the city’s finances, diverting funds from road construction and Public Safety, it will be every taxpayer’s concern. He hopes they can come up with a solution that will be a model for other communities.

Mayor Bobby Hopewell says they can’t afford to ignore this challenge.

Manager Jim Ritsema says the Task Force will meet for the first time next month and will hopefully conclude its work by mid-summer.

He says they will begin the work with no predetermined outcome, hold open sessions and meet biweekly.

 Kalamazoo County has taken a very different approach to addressing their healthcare legacy costs with retirees, letting administrators come up with a proposal in consultation with retirees and union officials. 

Their complex and controversial proposal could come up for a vote at their next meeting in early February. 

Not all commissioners are on board with the proposal, because they are concerned they may be breaking promises the county made to its employees about supporting them in their retirements.