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County hopes self-funded insurance will create savings

Chris Buchanan

A partially self-funded insurance plan will likely be the key to having no increase in county taxes this year, county manager Carl Rowland said after a decision last Thursday that will ultimately save the county a large amount of money.

Commissioners voted unanimously to a self-funded insurance plan that will be administered by Taylor Benefits out of Thomasville, Ga.

The decision came after the county received its renewal rate with Blue Cross Blue Shield that would have increased the county’s annual insurance cost by over $85,000 for the year.

An alternative rate through Aetna would have dropped the county’s portion of the insurance by $76,086 dollars and the employee cost by even more $136,250.

But the overall best rate came through Taylor Benefits at a savings of $118,615 to the county and $116,882 for the employees.  Overall, the insurance costs will be $235,496 cheaper than the current rate and $255,331 cheaper than the renewal rates proposed through Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

The county manager applauded the commission for their efforts to keep the budget down and said that barring any increases in the existing projected budget, there shouldn’t be any need for a tax increase for the coming year.
Commissioners also looked initial budget figures during the meeting that included major cost savings in two departments and an expected increase in another.
According to reports, the courthouse itself – excluding the court departments themselves – will be decreasing by about $25,000 this year due to interdepartmental cutbacks.
Similarly the initial budget for the jail saw a cutback of $6,000 requested with the county manager suggesting additional cuts adding up to $23,000.  The county manager requested an additional $10,000 be cut from maintenance and repairs on buildings which was already undercutting the 2013 budget by $15,000 and a $2,500 decrease in the advertising budget.
Across the hall in the sheriff’s office, costs will be going up this year, however, based on the initial budget.
The sheriff’s office requested a $36,000 increase this year and the county manager has bumped that cost up to $43,000 despite numerous line items decreasing.  Administrative assistant costs are expected to rise by about $25,000 in the budget.  The sergeant salary may be among the biggest increases going from $36,000 budgeted the previous year to $135,000 likely due to the reorganization of the department placing new duties on the position.
The drug investigator line item also increased by about $34,000 and group insurance showing a $4,000 increase in budget.  Gas and oil are also budgeted higher by about $19,000.
Reductions in telephone spending and vehicle maintenance budgets were also included in the budget along with an $80,000 reduction in deputy costs and the complete removal of a $5,000 line item for informant pay.
Another department with a significant increase in budget for the year will be the elections board since not only will an election year for various offices be coming up in 2014, but also the complete reorganization of the county’s nine precincts into just three which elections board superintendent Christine Turner said will require several changes and legally required advertising to prepare the public.

The road department will also be receiving a large increase in the coming budget of about $323,000 due in part to a near $100,000 increase in the salary line item. Group insurance will also go form no money in the 2013 budget to $102,000 in the listed budget though this number could lower considerably due to the county’s new choice in insurance. But an increased budget for gas and oil of about an additional $60,000 is also expected.

Despite the numbers being laid out in the  documentation at the meeting, the insurance change could be a significant game-changer that could lower many budgets through the insurance line item but exactly how much of a difference that will make per department remains to be seen.  Other items could change significantly this early in the budgeting process, Rowland told the Enterprise this week, but he still held to hopes that the county shouldn’t be required to increase the millage.

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