Ex-Ficano appointee's $96K a year pension has no age requirement

Ex-Ficano appointee's $96K a year pension has no age requirement

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Matt Schenk plans to start collecting a $96,000 a year pension. Matt Schenk plans to start collecting a $96,000 a year pension.
DETROIT (WJBK) -

Matt Schenk, who is Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano's former chief of staff, is preparing for a big pension payday.

Right now Schenk earns nearly $200,000 working for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. However, when he worked for the county, he took an early retirement incentive package offered to appointees that will pay him $96,000 a year for the rest of his life, which he plans to start collecting in a few month at the young age of 41.

Wayne County Commissioner Chair Gary Woronchak said it should make taxpayers sick to their stomachs.

"There's absolutely no way that anyone could justify with no age requirement drawing that kind of a pension. More money than average workers are going to make ever in a year," he said.

Schenk reportedly said he needed to enroll now or lose out on the benefits.

Woronchak, who serves on the retirement board, said he must enroll and buy into the plan now, but Schenk could defer the pension for as long as he wants.

"It wouldn't make economic sense to him, but he could. No one is forcing him to start drawing that pension now," he said.

These sort of retirement packages with no age requirements have been since outlawed, but Commissioner Tim Kileen said it does not prevent the cash-strapped county from having to pay for the plans that already exist.

"It's taking more money away from us to put into the retirement plan that otherwise could go into services like the prosecutor," he said.

Now the county claims through the early retirement incentives that Ficano was able to shave the number of appointees by 30 percent ultimately saving money, but critics say in the long run it will cost the county big time.

"I think that's baloney that it's going to save the county money. Of course it saves the county money to have fewer people, but you can just remove those people because they're at-will. These incentives were a sweetheart deal, there's no question in my mind about it," Woronchak said.

"Looking back on it, if there were things that we could do differently, that having an age requirement would've been better," said Deputy Wayne County Executive Jeffrey Collins.

Can anything be done to adjust the lucrative retirement plans and alleviate some of the cost?

"That is something I'm looking at, what can we do to stop the defined benefit portion of the retirement and get everybody into what's called a defined contribution?" Kileen said. "That is much less onerous on the county."

As it stands right now, Wayne County only has half the money it needs to pay for pension plans over the next 30 years.

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