Council to address proposal next week
By MICHAEL OWEN
The president of the Columbus Fraternal Order of Police lambasted Columbus Council and Mayor Teresa Tomlinson's administration Tuesday evening over proposed changes in the city employees' health insurance plan.
Council delayed making a decision on the proposed plan two weeks ago until it could be addressed at a work session, scheduled for next week.
But Robertson, a Muscogee County Sheriff's Office major, said public safety employees, as well as general government workers, are tired of city leaders balancing the budget on their backs.
He cited city pension problems two years ago and health insurance issues last year. In
both cases, employees ended up with more money coming out of their paychecks, he said.
"Now in 2013, we are here again debating over asking employees to give more with no guarantee of receiving anything for their sacrifice," Robertson said.
The city is facing a $2 million shortfall in the funds budgeted for health insurance this year.
If the plan isn't changed to cover that shortfall, the city will have to dig deeper into its reserves, which are already close to the point that its bond rating could suffer, Tomlinson has warned.
Robertson said the money could be found in what he called a "bloated" city government that is "full of programs, services, people and practices that do not serve the citizens with the required duties of government."
"It is time for the sacred cows to be butchered, packaged and stored in the fiscal freezer so that our citizens can be fed when hard times come to visit again," he said.
Robertson said the FOP is compiling a report that will identify services that could be eliminated.
He said the report will be presented early next year, but he declined to identify any particular program or service Tuesday night.
Councilor Judy Thomas reminded Robertson that council plans to discuss the health insurance issue next Tuesday in a work session. She also invited him and any other Consolidated Government employees to attend and offer input.
The proposal would raise HMO rates for individuals from $91 a month to $92.80; employee and spouse rates from $195 to $227.20; employee and children rates from $208 to $211.15; and family rates from $221 to $286.73.
Employees who choose the PPO option would see individual rates drop from $104 a month to $98.87, as would employee and children rates, from $234 to $218.38.
But employee and spouse rates would go from $221 to $234.91 and family rates would rise from $247 to $297.56.
Employees who opt to use the Health and Wellness Center would see rates stay the same as the current HMO rates.
Out-of-pocket expenses would also rise.
HMO out-of-pocket levels would rise from $1,000 per individual and $2,000 per family to $1,500 for individuals and $3,000 per family.
PPO out-of-pocket levels would rise from $2,300 per individual and $4,600 per family to $2,800 per individual and $5,600 per family.
Tomlinson said rising health care costs are a reality the city will have to address one way or another.
"The choice will be to go below 60 days (in the city fund balance), and the cost to the city of that, or assessing it to each department, and having the departments make hundreds of thousands of dollars in cuts, and the potential jobs impact that would have," Tomlinson said. "Or we can share the costs."