Jefferson County Commissioners look at cuts across the board

by Dennis Sharkey
Every department within the county will operate with less and employees may be asked to contribute more.

Chairman Richard Malm said on Monday that commissioners are still hacking through the budget looking for savings in every department including health insurance.

Currently a single employee pays $20 a month for insurance while a family plan costs an employee $60 a month. One way of cutting into the large premium increases could be to raise the employees’ premium. This year the county pays $489 a month for a single employee and about $1,250 for a family plan. Employees also have the option of buying into a lower deductible.

Malm said the county pays about 95 percent of an employee’s premium. He said employees didn’t get raises for a couple of years because of insurance costs. He said an employee whose salary is $32,000 costs the county more than $50,000 once taxes, insurance and retirement are factored in.

Second District Commissioner Roy Dunnaway said the county has to compete with the private sector.

“A lot of people doing the same job make more money,” he said.

“Our health insurance is a big benefit,” First District Commissioner Lynn Luck said.

Luck said a wellness plan being developed by employees should also help drive down some future costs.

“I think as years go on it will become more effective and people will learn,” she said. “It will not only affect them but also the insurance premiums.”

The cheapest plan insurance brokers have found would increase costs by about 20 percent. However, Malm said they have requested a bid from Blue Cross and Blue Shield. He said the county requested a bid for a self insured plan like the county is currently in, and a provided plan like the one the county switched from last year.

Commissioners heard from representatives from Coventry Health on Monday.

Malm said they are likely to go with Coventry but ideas are still “being kicked around.”

If they do switch to Coventry the county share would increase to $509 for a single employee and to $1,294 for a family plan per month.

Malm said every department has been asked to cut five percent of their budget for next year. Road and Bridge Department may see some other additional cuts as well.

Malm said valuations for this year were about flat.

In other actions:

• Road and Bridge Director Francis Hubbard ran a traffic count on Bridge Road heading west. The average daily count was 141 vehicles during a 12 hour period. He said it was more than he expected.

Hubbard said he is going to wait to submit an application until the budget numbers are complete. An application is due by Sept. 16.

“It’s a long shot on whether we got drawed,” he said. “If we didn’t then at least we’ve got the process started.

The application would be for a federal grant that would pay for 80 percent of the costs. The county would be responsible for the remaining 20 percent. Hubbard estimated the bridge project at about $600,000.

“If you hammer our budget too bad I’ll going to have to withdraw,” he said.

• Hubbard said the county needs to upgrade a rubber roller that is currently in the shop. The current model is a 1992. The county is renting a roller to chip and seal roads.

• The attorney for a group of landowners, Thomas Knutzen, appeared before commissioners to clear up some confusion with a petition to close a section of King Road, west of Valley Falls.

One of the landowners, Dan Barrow, was also in attendance. Barrow and two other landowners took it upon themselves to close the road in 2005 and constructed a gate. Barrow said last week that he had verbal permission to close the road from a county commissioner.

A public hearing on the road closure is scheduled for Sept. 19.

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Posted by on Aug 22 2011. Filed under County, County Commission, Government. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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