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Archive for Monday, May 18, 2009

Douglas County commissioners agree to hold employee health insurance premiums flat

May 18, 2009

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With watchful eyes on the budget picture, Douglas County commissioners on Monday agreed to temporarily hold employee health insurance premiums flat for next year.

However, commissioners want to learn more about the county administration’s overall budget recommendations to see how the county budget could absorb the anticipated cost of $300,000 to $500,000.

“If we can do it, I intend to support that,” Commissioner Jim Flory said. “I would like to see more numbers before we take that second step.”

For 2009-2010, the county expects a 9 percent increase in health insurance costs. During the tough economic times, county leaders have also said it was unlikely that employees would receive any pay increases this year other than possibly a one-time payment, similar to a bonus.

Much of the discussion at Monday’s meeting about the health insurance policy centered around a recommendation from the county’s health insurance committee about the county’s budget absorbing the increase in premiums.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug said he was looking at a budget recommendation to place $300,000 in a health insurance reserve account to help cover the increased cost instead of spending that same amount for industrial lot development.

“I’m optimistic, but not promising, that we can fund this full amount without a mill levy increase,” Weinaug said.

The county administrator said the $300,000 budgeted last year as a one-time expense for industrial park development would not be enough to cover any items in that effort.

Commissioners agreed to keep the current premiums flat because the new health insurance plan takes effect June 1. They did leave the door open to revisit the issue during budget discussions. Employees could see their premiums increase later in the year.

Also at Monday’s meeting, commissioners also unanimously extended water skiing times at Lone Star Lake from noon to 8 p.m. on Memorial Day next Monday and Labor Day on Sept. 7. The county will also allow skiing from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday in September.

The lake’s regulations already allow skiing from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday between June 1 and Labor Day.

Comments

midwestmom 5 years, 7 months ago

There are lots of places to make cuts in different department budgets - one that comes immediately to mind are all the 'take home & drive them for free' cars that anyone Lt. & above at the sheriff's department has, public works vehicles and all the other vehicle related 'perks' that come with tenure. In times where employees are not getting raises and health care costs are so burdensome, it's not unrealistic to look at the 'used to be necessities' and decide that there is a less expensive way to do business. How often do any of these people actually respond to an emergency? Usually it's just one or two....maybe they could be paid mileage in their personal vehicle when the do need to come out to an accident or crime scene? How much would that save taxpayers????....

mrbig 5 years, 7 months ago

As far as I know county vehicles are driven strictly while the employee is working- or going to or from work. Why should the employee be expected to use their own personal vehicle, and be paid a measly amount of mileage while they are putting miles on it, depreciating the value, paying for insurance, and maintaining it?

somebodynew 5 years, 7 months ago

mrbig - even if you are correct -do YOU get a vehicle to drive back and forth to work everyday?? Some of the people using these take home vehicles do JUST that. Drive back and forth to work - from anywhere in Douglas County. They should never be called out in the middle of the night for some emergency.

Now, some positions will be, and you shouldn't eliminate all take homes, but in these times you need to cut the unneccessary. I am not sure an "administration type" emergency is going to occur at 2 am, and if it does, well drive to work like the rest of us do. And drive to work like the rest of us do 5 days a week - in our own cars with our own gas.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 7 months ago

I doubt that any of the vehicles for County employees are frivolous. I also doubt that any of those vehicles are "costing" the County much in expense back and forth. And the County gets the benefit of those vehicles not having to be stored, because now they've transferred those costs to the employee.

It doesn't make sense to quibble over pennies. Programs are where the real dollars are. The Commissioners need to develop the courage to make programmatic decisions...or to increase revenue.

mrbig 5 years, 7 months ago

Somebodynew-

I'm sorry but I disagree, and think that most of the people who have these cars use them primarily to respond to emergency situations, and also use them to drive to and from work. I don't think that this 'benefit' is the reason for the county's financial situation. Can't make everyone happy I guess...

purplesage 5 years, 7 months ago

"most of these people who have these cars use them primarily to respond to emergency situations" That would be like the fire department vehcile I saw twice at Sam's Club last Friday night? This is one of the most abused perks in both industry and government.

And considering the insurance, the state and federal plans that many employees of various political subdivisions enjoy are unbelievable compared to what most private employers offer these days.

Seems to me that bringing government health insurance benefits more into line with those of the people who have to pay for it through their taxes might be something to explore.

It might help with that multi-billion dollar deficit that the USPS is experiencing, too. The "deal" of government employment, 20 year pension, lower than cost insurance coverage is one of the burdens our country might not any longer be able to bear.

somebodynew 5 years, 7 months ago

mrbig- I agree with you that the car issue is NOT the biggest problem the county faces with their finances. However, there are way too many people with cars assigned that never are called out for any emergency and they are just transportation from their homes (Dg. Co. covers a lot of miles) to their OFFICE. I am not saying anyone who has one, abuses this (The Sams Club reference above) it is just extra cars and a lot of gas and mileage that doesn't seem neccessary. And I think this is in several different sections of the County Government.

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