City council’s benefits set it apart

  • Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The City of Georgetown stands apart from most other comparable South Carolina cities in providing health insurance to the dependents of city council members, based on a survey of city insurance practices by the Georgetown Times.

Out of nine cities surveyed, Georgetown and Lexington are the only cities that provide dependent health insurance coverage. Georgetown is among five cities that cover council members with health insurance. Another city, Lake City, provides health insurance to council members only if they are not covered by their regular employer. Three cities – Cayce, Clemson and Fort Mill – provide neither council members nor their dependents with health insurance coverage.

The pay of city council members in the nine cities including Georgetown also was compared, primarily from the findings of a 2014 Municipal Compensation Survey by the Municipal Association of South Carolina. Georgetown ranks fourth-highest among the nine cities in salaries paid to mayor and city council members.

The City of Georgetown’s payments of insurance premiums for council members’ dependents has been a hot-button issue as the city administration prepared and the council approved a $36.5 million 2014-2015 municipal budget.

After raising objections to the practice earlier, Councilwoman Carol Jayroe and Councilman Ed Kimbrough last week voted against the budget based on its continued support of health insurance plan premiums for council members’ dependents. The city’s cost to insure spouses and other dependents was $28,860 in 2013-2014, and will rise in 2014-2015 because of a 24 percent premium increase by Blue Cross Blue Shield, the city’s health insurance provider.

Jayroe said after the 5-2 vote on June 19 to approve the budget, “I absolutely voted against the budget because of the issues that I have with the health insurance premiums.” Kimbrough said, “I could not vote for the budget because of the health insurance premiums.”

The Georgetown Times compared the city’s insurance practices with eight other cities that have similar populations and, like Georgetown, provide water and utility services to city residents. The survey included the cities of Bennettsville, Cayce, Clemson, Fort Mill, Fountain Inn, Lake City, Lexington and Newberry.

Besides Georgetown, Bennettsville, Fountain Inn and Newberry provide council members with health insurance, either through their own municipal private plans or through the state health plan.

The cities pay a major portion of insurance premiums. Bennettsville, for instance, contributes 67 percent of the council members’ insurance premium costs. In Georgetown, about 83 percent of the council members’ health insurance costs are picked up by the city.

Records obtained by the Georgetown Times last month show that monthly health insurance premiums for five members of the city council covered by the city plan range from $341 to $879. Councilman Rudolph Bradley and Councilman Clarence Small are covered as individuals, costing $341 per month, with the city paying $292 and the councilmen paying $49 of the premiums costs. Councilwomen Jayroe and Peggy Wayne have employee and spouse coverage, costing $711 per month, with the city picking up $556 of the premium cost and the councilwomen paying $155. Councilman Brendon Barber has family coverage costing $878 per month, with the city paying $709 of the monthly premium cost and Barber paying $169. Mayor Jack Scoville and Councilman Kimbrough are not covered under the city’s health insurance plan.

The Georgetown City Council in May reversed a decision to move city employees to the state plan, which would have cost city employees – including council members – another $108 per month for family coverage and an extra $34 per month for individual coverage.

Bradley, who had earlier voted with a 5-2 majority to enroll city employees in the state plan, asked for reconsideration of the vote. He was joined by Smalls, Wayne and Barber, all of whom have coverage under the city plan, in rescinding enrollment in the state plan and keeping city employees under their current Blue Cross Blue Shield policies.

The city is facing a 24 percent increase in Blue Cross Blue Shield premiums that will cost it another $150,000 in its 2014-2015.

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