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State aid boosts Flint city government pension plan, but it's still only 60% funded

"We’re almost to the finish line," said Robert Widigan, Flint City Chief Financial Officer
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
"We’re almost to the finish line," said Robert Widigan, Flint City Chief Financial Officer

Flint officials are turning their attention to the city government’s outstanding unfunded pension liability after state lawmakers approved a partial bailout.

Presently, the city of Flint has four retirees to every current city employee paying into the pension plan.

The new state budget contains $170 million, which will bring Flint’s city pension plan funding level plan to 60%. The city will receive the money in August 2023.

Until now, the city’s pension fund had been only about one-third funded.

Flint officials faced allocating nearly $40 million in fiscal year 2024 for the pension plan. With the state pension plan funding, the city will need to allocate between $18 and $19 million for the fund.

The city budget for the next fiscal year calls for a pension payment of $32 million and a total general fund expenditure of about $65 million.

Flint officials admit the state funding is just the beginning to getting its pension budget under control.

City Chief Financial Officer Robert Widigan said paring down the remaining 40% that’s unfunded is the next step.

“There’s still discussions to be had with our partners in Lansing, community partners,” Widigan told reporters Wednesday, “But this gives us a stable ground to where we can actually have those conversations.”

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley is optimistic there will soon be a major economic development announcement that will increase tax revenues to pay into the pension fund.

“We’ll be announcing maybe in a couple of weeks about a major $300 million deal here in the city of Flint that will create 3,000, 4,000 jobs,” Neeley said, adding that an infusion of income tax revenues will give the city more money to work with.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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