Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 21, 2012

City to pick up tab on health insurance increase

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — The Crossville City Council approved picking up the additional charges for employee family health insurance coverage during a special-called meeting Tuesday night.

Councilman George Marlow moved to approve the additional funds, supported by Councilman Pete Souza. The council had previously discussed paying half the increase in premiums for family health insurance coverage increase, splitting the cost with the employees. The change will require an additional $37,286.28, which is available in the budget.

"I feel that we need to re-look at the benefits package at this time and give back to employees some of what we took away a few weeks ago," Souza said. "And I think this is a reasonable compromise."

The Network S Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance plan increases the individual calendar year deductible to $2,500, from $2,000. The out-of-pocket maximum also increases from $2,500 to $3,000. The added cost to employees is $14.88 per week for those with family coverage, $7.78 per week for those with employee and spouse coverage, and $6.95 for those with employee and children coverage. Employees with Network P plans would bear the cost of the difference between that plan and the Network S plan, $10.27 per week for employees. It was noted 12 employees have this health plan, but they use doctors in the Network S plan and could easily switch if they chose.

The motion passed unanimously.

A motion to return city employees to a weekly pay schedule failed the council with a 4-1 vote.

Councilman Jesse Kerley said, "Taking them to two weeks out puts hardships in their lives."

Kerley said he'd received many complaints from employees struggling to make it from pay check to pay check without borrowing money. He moved to return to a weekly pay period.

It is estimated the change from weekly to bi-weekly pay periods saves the city about $500 a year but also saves time for an employee to compile the payroll as well as time saved by department heads in keeping up with employee time. City Finance Director Fred Houston estimated the change has freed up four to five hours of time one day a week for the employee that handles payroll.

The city did pay a 2 percent bonus to employees, at a cost of about $125,000, which was used to bridge the transition from weekly pay periods to bi-weekly pay periods.

"It wasn't taken lightly and wasn't made without consideration. I was just trying to add some efficiency to the operation," City Manager Bruce Wyatt said. He added the recommendation for the change came from a panel that studied how to make the city government more efficient.

Souza said he understood the difficulties some employees might be having with the change, but that this would be the third or fourth time the city had attempted to make this change and then returned to a weekly pay period.

"We need to be consistent and not change it if we don't have to," Souza said. He was also troubled by the fact the city had paid a bonus to employees to assist in the transition.

Kerley said, "I move we help these employees out that are having a hardship by being forced onto a two-week pay period."

Souza supported the motion so that the council could take a vote on the issue.

The motion failed with Kerley voting in favor and Marlow, Danny Wyatt and Mayor J.H. Graham III voting no. Souza passed at first and then voted no.

In other action, the council approved third reading of an ordinance amending the budget for a dog park and for sewer line replacements and second reading of ordinances amending the budget for a records management system and retirement pay as well as adopting the International Mechanical Code and International Funeral Gas Code.