Wednesday, May 21, 2014
The Georgetown City Council voted Thursday to enroll the City employees in the State of South Carolina Health Plan, but left open the question of who will pay the higher employee premiums under the state plan.
The city voted against moving forward with the 2014-2015 budget until questions are resolved about who will pay for the increased employee monthly premiums of $108 for a family and $34 for a single employee under the state health plan. The council is considering whether the city should subsidize employee paychecks to offset the health insurance premium increase. City officials have estimated that it would cost $150,000 to absorb the full cost of the higher premiums.
Describing a city administration proposal, City Human Resources Director and Risk Manger Suzanne Abed-El-Latif explained that although the plan would increase the employees’ deduction, the employee would receive a medical insurance reimbursement in the form of a taxed earning, in order to ease the burden of premium increase on employees. Abed-El-Latif said the reimbursement would cover the difference between the state health insurance premiums and the current city health insurance premiums.
Council members previously have said they favor some kind of reimbursement for employees, but have not agreed on an amount – which would affect the city’s 2014-2015.
Facing a deadline of Friday, May 15, to enroll employees in the state plan, the City Council took that action, but left the reimbursement issue and further consideration of the budget for a future meeting. The council voted 5-2 to enroll city employees in the state plan, with Councilman Brendon Barbour and Councilwoman Peggy Wayne dissenting.
Some council members voiced concern about being rushed into a decision. The council was taken aback at Abed-El-Latif’s request for an immediate vote on Thursday, the day before the deadline. “We haven’t even really had time to review this properly,” said Councilwoman Wayne.”
An agitated Councilman Barbour voiced his concern directly to Abed-El-Latif, stating, “I don’t see how you can do your job as the Human Resources Manager and be the benefits administrator for this plan at the same time.”
Abed-El-Latif assured Barbour that her job as HR manager included the administration of the city’s health plan, whatever the plan turned out to be. She also pointed out that the plan has a mandatory four-year participation, and if the municipality left the plan anytime within those four years, it could not rejoin for another four years.
The plan also contains a tobacco surcharge of $40 per month for single employees, and $60 per month for family policy coverage.
The other sticking point in the proposed 2014-2015 budget was the salary and role of the city’s new Economic Developer.
“I don’t understand why this has to be a separate department,” said Councilman Clarence Smalls speaking of the city’s Economic Developer position. “Why can’t he just be put in that office over there with Rick and all that bunch?”; suggesting that the Economic Developer’s position be grouped in with the office of Housing and Community Development. In defense of the position, Councilwoman Carol Jayroe reminded Smalls that the city had paid for a company to review and advise them on the justification of departments, and the city acted on the information that was provided in creating the position. Mayor Jack Scoville suggested that the council get an update from the department and review the findings of the company that guided the city in its decision to create the department in the first place.
After returning from an executive session, the council passed a motion to release all written records previously withheld by the city under attorney-client privilege, as a result of a specific Freedom of Information Act request submitted by either Steve or Jean Rothrock. The Mayor noted that personal information in regards to city employees and contractual information would be excluded from the information released.