Archive for Thursday, August 2, 2007

County stalls on ‘08 budget

Insurance plan proves difficult task

August 2, 2007

As Leavenworth County commissioners come closer to completing a budget for 2008, one big question mark remains this week.

What to do with employee health insurance?

The commission on Monday reviewed proposals from CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services Inc., of Leawood that would either raise the cost of providing health insurance to the 441 members of the county employee health plan by 15 percent or completely rework how the county insures its employees.

Last week, after a July 25 meeting with certified public accountant Steve Wagner, who advises the board on its budget, Commissioner J.C. Tellefson estimated the grand total expenditures for 2008 at $39.9 million, accounting for all reimbursements and appropriations. That's approximately $3.2 million or 20 percent more than the amount approved for 2007.

Tellefson stressed that the figure was subject to change as the board still worked to compile final budget figures. He also noted that salary increases and benefits for county employees have not yet been factored into the equation.

Commissioners have not released a new mill levy figure since mid-July, when they estimated property taxes could rise as much as 6 mills over a year ago. But since that time, they've trimmed more than $4 million from earlier budget requests. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed property valuation.

The 15 percent increase in health insurance premiums discussed Monday would bring the total cost with employee contributions to $2.1 million annually under the current system.

CBIZ representatives said a big reason for the proposed rate increase is, with low co-payments on doctor's visits and prescription coverage, many policyholders do not realize the true costs of the treatment they are receiving.

According to data presented Monday, one claimant's coverage alone totaled $136,662 roughly 11 percent of all payments doled out by CBIZ in the past year while that person was charged flat rates for doctor's visits and prescription coverage.

CBIZ representatives also presented, at Tellefson's request, an alternative of switching to high deductible plans called health savings accounts (HSA's) or health reimbursement arrangements (HRA's).

Under these plans, employees would have slightly lower premiums and would have all preventative care covered, but they would have much higher deductibles.

HSA and HRA deductibles would be $2,000 for an individual and $4,000 for a family in-network, whereas, under the current system, a county employee can elect to be covered under core or buy-up plans, which have deductibles of $500 and $250, respectively, for an individual or $1,000 and $500 for a family.

Amanda Willis of CBIZ explained that all medical costs paid out-of-pocket would be capped at $2,000 and $4,000 under the new plans compared to $2,500 for an individual and $5,000 for a family under the core plan or $2,250 and $4,500 under buy-up.

From the county's standpoint, though, the high deductible plans could cost several hundred thousand dollars more than the current system, if all policyholders fully utilized them, Tellefson said.

He added, "I think the high deductible program is a better program, but it costs too much money."

Ultimately Monday, the commission prolonged making a decision on whether to renew coverage with CBIZ and provider United HealthCare, but Human Resources Director Diane Collins said an official report would need to be ready by Thursday to meet deadlines for 2008 budget hearings.

"We're on a very tight time schedule here," she reminded commissioners.

Health insurance along with dental and life insurance is offered to all full-time county employees as an employee benefit. The county picks up the entire cost of health insurance if an employee opts for individual coverage; if the worker wants a family plan, he or she basically splits the insurance cost with the county.

Health insurance could cost the county as much as $474.11 per employee per month in 2008, Collins said.

Tellefson said determining employees' benefits and salary increases was another of the final steps in preparing the budget.

With a 20 percent increase in departmental requests and a 15 percent increase in the cost of health insurance, Tellefson said he wondered how much room would be left for yearly pay raises.

According to Wagner, a 3 percent across-the-board salary increase, for instance, would raise the proposed budget by $453,000.

At the July 25 meeting, the board cut back on what several departments had requested in previous preliminary budget hearings.

A $1.7 million increase to the road and bridge fund proposed by the public works department mainly to fund improvements to County Road 2 was pared down to a potential $81,000 increase.

Other departments that may see their budget requests trimmed are Emergency Medical Services, which has plans for a new EMS station in 2008; Economic Development, which had included increases in marketing and advertising for 2008; and the Sheriff's Office, which requested the addition of several new officers for next year.

Departments with budget requests still more than 10 percent higher than the amount approved for 2007 include the County Counselor-at-large, Elections, Clerk, Information Systems, Special Buildings and Planning and Zoning.

Wagner emphasized he feels certain departments are underestimating their revenues, throwing off the figures for 2008.

"You're pushing a bigger problem through if you don't accurately state your revenues," Wagner said.

As Wagner, County Clerk Linda Scheer and the county commission work to solidify departmental increases, depreciation, employee salaries and benefits are all that remains for the budget.

"We're going to see where the numbers are at and proceed from there," Commissioner Dean Oroke said.

A public budget hearing will be scheduled for sometime in mid-August, when official numbers will be submitted and commissioners will vote on 2008 spending plan.

In other business Monday, the board:

¢ Voted, 3-0, to issue a special-use permit to Martin and Janet Florence to operate a dog kennel at 22985 154th St.

¢ Unanimously approved a renewal application for a special-use permit for a wood shop owned by Roget and Jilinda White at 23500 195th St.

¢ Voted, 3-0, to issue a special-use permit to Gary and Jo Ann Higgins for a machine shop located at 34769 Round Prairie Drive.

In business Thursday, the board:

¢ Voted, 3-0, to table amending the county's zoning regulations to include water towers, water treatment facilities and gas pumping stations as uses permitted in "I-2" light industrial zones for two weeks.

Among other things, the amendment would allow Water District No. 1 of Johnson County to build and operate a residual monofill, where sediment from water to be pumped from the Missouri River would be stored, without having to apply directly for a special-use permit.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber expressed concern that the planned site for the monofill southwest of County Road 5 between the ArcherDaniels Midland grain elevator and Lakeside Speedway is in the city of Lansing's urban growth management area and that Lansing officials should be included in any further talks.

¢ Met with Community Corrections Director Mikel Lovin, who told the board a recent audit by the Kansas Department of Corrections revealed financial discrepancies that occurred before he became director of the department in 2006.

"We told them we spent about $8,100 more than what we did," Lovin said. "It's my office's responsibility to make sure the budget numbers we submit are accurate."

Commissioner Dean Oroke told Lovin, "I guess that I kind of apologize. A lot of things, we were in the dark, and we just carried over on how things were being done."

Lovin said some money might need to be repaid to KDOC but that state officials also mentioned earlier "they didn't want anything from Community Corrections or Leavenworth County."

The board also voted unanimously to promote Karen Vaughan to deputy director of the department. She will handle most juvenile issues for the department.

"I think she's worthy of the title, and I know she can handle the responsibility," Lovin said.

¢ Unanimously voted to deny a special-use permit that would have allowed Lindsay Morisse to sell approximately 10 firearms per year from his home at 17785 168th Street.

A handful of nearby residents that signed a protest petition against the permit were present Thursday to voice their concerns that a gun shop, however small, would increase the traffic load on a narrow residential street and should not be located near a day care in the neighborhood.

Commissioners acknowledged that Morrisse would take all efforts possible to comply with the law, including obtaining a federal license and requiring thorough background checks, but like 3rd District Commissioner Dean Oroke, who said, "In the interest of public safety, (I vote) no," all three voted to deny the permit.

¢ Heard a monthly report from the Public Works and Noxious Weeds departments.

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