• 70°

City finds insurance agreement

The Brookhaven Board of Aldermen held their second budget worksession Thursday night, and it was highlighted by heated debateover health insurance and wage raises.

While aldermen were able to agree on a health insurance policywhen they reconvened Tuesday night’s regular board meeting, thesubject of raises remains unsettled. That issue is expected to berevisited after next Tuesday’s 6 p.m. public hearing on the newyear budget.

Aldermen finally decided on a health insurance policy that willcost the city $560 a month per employee, plus $39 a month fordental coverage if taken. The city pays 100 percent of employeeinsurance costs.

In addition, the city will pay $300 on dependent coverage amonth, which is expected to be around $922 this year. The city-paidamount for dependent coverage was lowered from a proposed $450 amonth discussed earlier.

Ward Six Alderman David Phillips said the problem with pickinginsurance this year is that over the last two years, insurancecosts nationally have gone up 40 percent.

“The board, we’re not the bad guys here, it’s the demand forhealth care and the system,” Phillips said. “Every company, everycity is having the same discussion, because it’s sucking all thedisposable income out of families and everywhere else.

“I feel like the city has an obligation to pave roads and buyequipment to keep it up, and if we pile all these increases onourselves, we’re unable to have these functions for the taxpayers,”he continued.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell argued that lowering the city’sdependent cap to $300 per policy puts an undue strain on theemployee.

“The employee is going to have to pay $625 per month,” he said.”That’s $350 a month more than they’re paying now.”

Maxwell asked City Clerk Mike Jinks to read the numbers ofemployees per department that carried dependent coverage,apparently hoping to point out that it caused hardship forlower-paid workers. Maxwell said fire and police departmentemployees average in the $30,000 a year range.

Jinks said 13 fire department and 10 police department employeeswere on dependent coverage, with the rest in the street, water,cemetery and solid waste departments.

At the request of Maxwell, the board also added another $15,000life insurance policy on to each city employee at a cost of $1.40per month per employee. That rate is not guaranteed for next year,however, as it was offered at a $5 per month per employee discountthis year.

Board members agreed with the new cap on dependent insurance todrop it to $150 next year, and to completely drop subsidizingdependent coverage by the 2012 budget. Dependent coverage willstill be offered, but the city will not pay any part of it.

Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes said very few other cities payany part of dependent coverage anymore. Jinks said there are citiesthat do, but they are not the rule.

“I’d like to give everyone a raise and pay their insurance, butour responsibility to taxpayers is to manage the budget and keepservices available,” Phillips said.

Jinks said the new policy will be sent to all city employees inthe open enrollment form on Sept. 1.

The board discussed the budget issues during a work session andthen voted on the needed items during a recessed meeting thatfollowed. Aldermen are expected to finalize all budget totals bySeptember 15 prior to the October 1 start of the city’s new fiscalyear.