Aug 30, 2016

County ends board’s health benefits

The 15 members of the Grundy County Board present Tuesday evening all agreed that the board members elected in November should not receive health insurance.

It took them, awhile, however to get around to that conclusion.

In fact, three split votes on various questions related to whether insurance should be provided for board members and, if so, how much they should pay for it, preceded the ultimate unanimous decision to eliminate the benefit. Each of the three preceding measures failed to win board approval.

At issue was a long-mulled question of whether county board members should be eligible for the provision of health insurance as part of their compensation package. The question is most relevant now because, as a result of the 2010 Census, all 18 board positions are up for election in 2012. A sitting board cannot alter its own benefits during its present term, and must set salary and benefits for an incoming board at least 180 days in advance.

The salaries and other direct financial remuneration for members of the board elected in November were previously established.

“We’re at a crossroads here,” board member Eric Rasmussen said. “We’ve been talking about this for months. It’s not like people haven’t had time to line up new insurance.”

Some board members, however, felt that more talk was still needed and some believed more time is needed before the benefit ceases. The insurance will not end until the new board is sworn in on Dec. 1.

Board member Ann Gill, who indicated she was the one who last summer first presented the idea of moving toward the elimination of insurance as a cost-saving measure, was the first to call for even more discussion. She motioned to table both a resolution eliminating the insurance benefit and a resolution tripling the premium for board members.

“Before us tonight are two proposals from the Insurance Committee,” Gill said. “… There is a compromise that we can maybe make if we sit down and discuss options to move toward elimination.”

Rasmussen, however, stated his belief that anything short of eliminating the benefit was “pretty hypocritical.”

He noted that the county does not extend insurance benefits to part-time employees who work up to 30 hours per week, while board members who work 15 to 20 hours a month attending committee and board meetings are given the benefit. He estimated the benefit probably equates to $100 an hour for the board members.

“I cannot with a clear conscience at all go ahead and ask you as taxpayers” to pay for that, he added.

Other board members also voiced their opposition to Gill’s suggested delay.

“Let’s do something and get it over with,” David Welter said.

Nine board members were in agreement with the position Welter espoused, as Gill’s motion to table failed on a 9-6 vote with Welter, Rasmussen, Chris Balkema, Dave Boggs, Millie Dyer, Ralph Wagner, John Galloway, Dick Steele and John Almer voting against the delay. Favoring it were Gill, Roth, Richard Joyce, Tom Poole, Ken Iverson, and Jeremy Ly.

With the motion to delay action defeated, Roth made a motion, which Dyer seconded, that the insurance premium for board members be tripled. Under the resolution, board members participating in the yearly health screening would have been asked to pay 30 percent of the premium for themselves, 45 percent of the cost for themselves and one other person, and 60 percent of the family cost. Those percentages each increased 15 percent for board members not participating in the screening.

Joyce immediately asked if Roth and Dyer would entertain a compromise combining the proposal to increase the premium with the proposal to eliminate the insurance. Specifically, he wanted a tripled premium to be put in place for four years, after which the benefit would be eliminated.

“Kind of a compromise to get something to pass,” Joyce said.

Roth initially refused, saying, “Let’s see where the roll call goes,” but he eventually agreed, saying, “I would amend my motion to that if that’s what Mr. Joyce wants.”

Rasmussen, however, was not so quick to comply.

“We can make that compromise next month if one of these doesn’t pass,” Rasmussen said.

Nevertheless, Joyce turned his request into an official motion to amend the motion to approve the premium tripling with no elimination on the horizon. That motion failed 10-5, with only Joyce, Iverson, Roth, Ly and Poole in favor of the change.

The vote to approve the tripling of the premiums was then taken, with the same five board members voting in favor.

Boggs then made a motion to eliminate the insurance benefit, which Welter seconded. The board members then unanimously voted in favor or removing health insurance for the benefit package for future board members.