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County eyes insurance increase

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

In an attempt to tighten a strained budget, the Caldwell County Commissioners Court is eyeing changes in employee insurance coverage in the coming budget year.

According to information presented by Ashley Cureton with the Texas Association of Counties during the Commissioners’ regular meeting on

Monday morning noted a potential increase of around $35 per employee if the County maintains its current coverage for employees and their families.

Judge Kenneth Schawe told his colleagues that in his efforts to not only tighten the budget, but also to put more money in the employees’ pockets, he would suggest in his proposed budget a change to the insurance that would amount to some $220,000 in savings to the County, and also reduce the employee contribution to insurance.

That change, however, would increase deductibles by $500, and copays by $10.

The idea was met with concern by some Commissioners, principally Alfredo Munoz, who said he was concerned that families are already having a difficult time meeting their deductibles.

Last year, according to Cureton, few County employees met their deductible, or even came close to it.

“I understand what you’re trying to do,” Munoz said. “But have we taken this to the employees to see their reactions? We’re talking about their paychecks here.”

Commissioner Joe Roland chimed in that he’s spoken to employees who are cynical about proposed pay raises, because increases in insurance costs often offset those pay increases, leaving little net change in the paycheck.

After some discussion on the matter, the Court opted to table the measure until their first regular meeting in August, in order to discuss with employees which option on insurance they would prefer.

In a related item, Schawe noted he was still working toward preparing the budget, but needed the information about the insurance to complete the task.

Munoz questioned the purpose of slating budget workshops, when the Commissioners have not yet seen a copy of the full proposed budget. Schawe said he had thus far been able to grant most of the budgetary requests made by the department heads, but still had work to regarding the largest parts of the budget – employee benefits and the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department budget.

The proposed budget is expected to be brought forth next month for discussion and eventual approval.

In other business, the Commissioners voted to give a raise to the county’s volunteer fire departments.

As more departments throughout the County have moved toward the creation of Emergency Service Districts, the responsibilities of those departments have changed, triggering a change in the Rural Fire Protection contract between the County and the remaining departments.

For the most part, according to Emergency Management Coordinator Martin Ritchey, the changes to the contract focus mainly on training and certification details. The contracts, with the Dale, Delhi, Tri-Community, Southeast, and McMahan Volunteer Fire Departments, also call for an $800-per-month stipend, payable to the departments from the County, and $200 worth of in-kind support from the County Shop for the fleets.

However, Schawe noted he had received a request to increase the donation amount to $1,000 per month, because the departments which have formed ESDs no longer receive a stipend from the county coffers. The Commissioners present approved the change immediately.

In brief news:

The Court approved an agreement with iDocket, an online system that will allow tracking of County Court at Law cases through the Internet. The service will come at no cost to the County, according to County Clerk Carol Holcomb; rather, she said, iDocket is a subscription-based service paid for by the users.

They discussed a relocation of the County Treasurer’s Office. The change was requested by Treasurer Lori Rangel after the resignation of Human Resources Director Deborah Kortan last month.

The Commissioners approved an extension of the period for final action on preliminary plat application of 130 Environmental Park as allowed by Section 3.4 (G) of the Caldwell County Development Ordinance. Engineer Tracy Bratton said in a written report to the Court that the extension was appropriate in light of the current battle before the State Office of Administrative Hearings regarding the state permits on the project.

The Caldwell County Commissioners Court routinely meets on the second and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the second floor courtroom of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public and are webcast at www.co.caldwell.tx.us.


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