County to try to hold line on health premiums

Employees not getting raises, but insurance costs jump $500,000

With Douglas County employees unlikely to receive pay increases this year, the county’s health insurance committee is asking commissioners to keep employee premiums flat for next year.

To do this, commissioners would have to find $500,000 to cover increased insurance costs.

“Due to the fact that we won’t receive a pay increase this year, that’s our justification for asking them not to raise the cost on us,” said health insurance committee member Kim Burns, a Douglas County senior personal property appraiser.

County leaders say they do consider it a morale issue for the 400 employees but the decision could be tough, considering this year’s budget conditions. Commissioners are dealing with declining revenues, mostly because of declining property values.

For 2009-2010, the county expects an increase in health insurance costs of 9 percent, Assistant County Administrator Pam Madl said.

Commissioner Jim Flory said it would be important to consider keeping employee premiums flat, especially with merit raises currently frozen. The key will be where to find the funds, he said.

“I’m certainly going to look at the numbers and ask the questions,” Flory said.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug said he was still putting together budget recommendations for commissioners to review, but he was preparing a scenario to absorb the $500,000 to keep the premiums flat. One possible area of savings could come in the capital outlay budget because road project costs have dropped significantly during the economic recession, Weinaug said.

County commissioners will consider renewing the health insurance plan during their 8:10 a.m. meeting today at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.