A day left for Wayne County officials to decide financial emergency fix

Just one day left for commissioners to decide what to do about Wayne County's financial emergency.

They have four options including bankruptcy. But County Executive Warren Evans is pushing for a consent agreement.

"In my mind, there is only one rational option and that is a consent agreement," Evans said. "And I have said that from day one."

With a $52 million structural deficit and far more in unfunded health care and pension liability, Evans made his case before county commissioners 24 hours before the deadline.

"I understand it's a very tough decision for all of us," Evans said, also using  the phrase "shared sacrifice."

Under the consent agreement  the county would implement a 5 percent pay cut across the board except for the prosecutor's office and the sheriff's department - as well as higher health care costs and cuts to pensions.

Evans wants the ability to resolve the contract issues with the unions - leeway he would be given under the consent agreement.

"We're going to do everything we can to strike a deal - but if we cannot we do not have time to wait or waste," Evans said.

But unions say it's bad news for them and takes away their bargaining power.

"We didn't make the problem," said Ed McNeil of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "But every time somebody messes it up, we're the ones you come and fix it with."

Another concern is the number of people who will retire if this goes through.

"There's a huge spike in the last week in applications for retirement," said Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak.

Normally the county averages five retirements a month but 50 people have applied for retirement in the past week. Under the consent agreement - if they don't leave before Oct. 1, they will lose health care  and have less in their pensions.

The only other option commissioners are considering is a neutral evaluation - but it's voluntary and the third party mediator has no authority. Evans says it will never work.

The commissioners meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday morning. At least eight of them must agree on a way forward by 5 pm Thursday. If not, it defaults to neutral evaluation.

"In reality, it's not going to work," Evans said. "I know in my gut it's not going to work."