On WDET: A Detroit pensioner describes life in the bankruptcy case

On WDET: A Detroit pensioner describes life in the bankruptcy case

Steve Wojtowicz worked for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department for 31 years. It was his first job out of high school. He filed an objection to the city’s Plan of Adjustment, and Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes selected him to testify today. His main objection to the city’s plan is the proposal to have some pensioners pay back money they received in their annuity savings funds, especially the nearly  7 percent interest the city wants to assign to those repayments.

Wojtowicz talked about his objections in advance of his testimony with Next Chapter Detroit’s Sandra Svoboda.

Here’s audio of that interview, with a full transcript below:

Sandra Svoboda: For a while there were court happenings, a lot of things behind the scene but really earlier this year was when things became very specific for the pensioners, can you tell me about when you really started understanding specifically what this case was going to mean to your pension.

Steve Wojtowicz: I understood obviously health care was the first thing and second was the reduction in my pension. I assumed that they could not touch my annuity. That was my thinking. Until toward the middle of the year when basically we did get the notice in the mail that they were going to try to take back some of the excess interest paid out in the annuity, the annuity that we put our own money into, they’re going to take that excess interest out. They thought we were overpaid. I could live with it. It was the $89,000 interest that they’re going to take back in a recoupment but when I got the voting papers in the mail, it said it was going to be $600 a month, and I divided the 600 into 89,000 and I said I’ll be paying this off in 12 years and it’s supposed to be for my lifetime. I’m 55 years old so I’m assuming my life expectancy would be 80 years old. So the $600 I’d end up paying back $180,000, $200,000 over this 25 years. I called the lawyers actually that same day and they explained to me they’re adding in 6.75 percent interest on top of the recoupment amount from the annuity. They said to me that they did not have no idea that the 6.75 percent was added on to the annuity. So.

SS: And you took some other kind of official action then, right?

SW: I started contacting the lawyers and going to the meetings and that’s one thing I requested that and actually in my objection when I applied that I put objections in that they should allow for a lump sum payback on the annuity because I didn’t think that the 6.75 percent interest rate was fair. I mean I can go out and get a home equity loan or some other way to pay this money back and I’ll be able to pay it back it’s not going to be my lifetime. It’s a better financial choice.

SS: So you filing that objection in the case with the court led to you appearing to testify now.

SW: Yes. I was actually surprised about that too. I just thought I would put the objection in and that would be the end of it and I would never hear anything about it. It’s good to hear the lump sum did go through and I will speak in front of the honorable Judge Rhodes. I’m still objecting to the 6.75 percent. It affects me a lot but it’s going to affect other people a lot more than me. I have the opportunity to do a home equity loan. A lot of the people don’t. They really don’t

SS: What do you expect the outcome will be of the 80 of you that are scheduled to testify?

SW: I don’t know. I don’t think much to be honest with you. He’ doing what he’s supposed to do and here are objections but I don’t think much is going to come of it. It’s a closed door. I still want to say something to him. That this is really, it’s not fair. You’re picking on a small amount of people.