CC Notes – August 17th 2015
All were present for the August 18th, regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners with the exception of Rebecca Stone and Woody Geisler. The first item on the agenda under New Business was a discussion on a new insurance benefit for county employees. The Budget Committee, of which I am a member, narrowly passed a new benefit for retiring Cumberland County employees that have worked for the county for at least 30 years. The benefit is only for current employees hired on or before July 1, 2015. The new benefit would pay 100% of the retiree’s individual health insurance until the former employee reaches Medicare age. The Budget Committee vote was 5-3 with Tom Isham, David Hassler, and Jack Davis voting in favor, along with county employees Terry Carter and Roy Turner. Jeff Dyer, Sonya Rimmer and I voted against the motion. I voted against this new entitlement as I believe it is a huge financial liability for the County. The year one projected cost to the county is $60,821 – and this is with a limit capping participation to eight new retirees per year and assuming no increase in the cost of the benefit. With the way that insurance costs have historically been increasing, this could be a very large amount over the lifetime of the benefit as rates and the number of employees receiving the benefit increase. There is the potential for retired employees to receive this benefit for 14-15 years, if not more, before enrolling in Medicare. As you can see, even with capping the new enrollees at eight per year, this will add up to a significant amount of money owed by the taxpayers in just a short amount of time. There is the potential that this new liability could even affect the County’s bond rating.
I can talk to the taxpayers of the county and explain why I believe the county should pay employees a reasonable, living wage, but I cannot do the same when it comes to this new benefit. Legacy costs are a large part of what caused the massive troubles in the auto industry. The State of Tennessee just ended this benefit for all new hires for a reason. Other counties around the state have done the same, again, all for the same reason – this is a very expensive benefit. I have heard from some that the hiring of new employees at a lower salary would help offset this expense. Some even believe the county would make money. If this were true, why is this benefit being cut in both public and private sectors all over the country? The final vote on this issue is scheduled for Monday, August 24, 2015 at 6:00 PM after a Public Hearing at 5:30 PM. At this point is seems this new benefit is going to pass the full commission, committing the county to several decades of retiree insurance payments.
The resolutions for the evening involved appointing Mike Harvel to the Cumberland County E-911 Emergency Communications District Board of Directors with a term that expires on August 31, 2017; reappointing Dennis Hinch and Glenn Harper to the Audit Committee with terms expiring August 15, 2017; reappointing Commissioners Nancy Hyder, David Hassler, Jack Davis, and Wendell Wilson as members of the Financial Management Committee for terms that expire August 31, 2016; reappointing Tammy Steward as a member of the Cumberland County Board of Health with a term that expires August 31, 2016; reappointing Joyce Rorabaugh as the County Archivist with a term spanning October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016. These resolutions were passed unanimously with the exception of the Audit Committee appointments. Commissioner Lowe voted against that resolution.
There was no financial report as the new fiscal year has just started and no summary data is available. I will have more information after next month’s meeting.
Thank you for allowing me to serve the 4th District and Cumberland County. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at any time.
Board of Commissioners
4th District Representative