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Commissioners at odds over health benefits

By Dawn Burleigh

dawn.burleigh@orangeleader.com

 

Orange County Commissioners discussed options regarding the county’s health insurance plans for employees, dependents and retirees on Tuesday.

Insurance rates will increase in the upcoming year starting Oct. 1. If the court opted to continue with the same plan the cost to the county would increase from $3,825,689 for the county contributions to $4,377,087. Option 2, the plan approved in a 4-1 vote, increases the cost to $4,227,692 for the county contributions. Commissioner John Banken voted against Plan 2.

The changes in the plan include a $5 increase for office visits, and a $500 increase in the deductible for county employees.

The cost is $34 less expensive per employee.

“We should keep what we got and absorb the cost,” Banken said. “There is no increase in salaries for the employees. There is no other way to get other revenues than to raise taxes.”

Orange County Judge Stephen “Brint” Carlton said the rates this year appeared flat.

“The last change in the tax rate was in 2011 and was actually a decrease. Generally we were collecting more taxes because of the appraisal rates.”

The county will have $3.3 million less in funds this year due to grants ending.

“We are going in the right direction overall,” Carlton said concerning the budget.

The court approved making no changes to the health insurance contributions from employees, dependents and retirees.

The judge suggested a tiered plan for future retirees.

“Currently it is the same for someone with eight years or 40 years,” Carlton said.

Carlton said the change would affect employees not yet hired.

Commissioner David Dubose said the item should be tabled until the new court was in place in January 2017.

“They ran thinking they would have these benefits after serving eight years,” Dubose said. “This affects them, let them vote on it.”

The court voted against any changes at this time.

Dubose, Burton, and Banken voted against making any changes at this time.