Council meeting Tuesday to revisit health insurance deficit

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 6, 2014 

Columbus Council meeting Tuesday December 3, 2013

JOE PAULL — jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com

Columbus Council will meet Tuesday afternoon in a special called meeting to discuss Consolidated Government health insurance cost overruns.

Council and the administration of Mayor Teresa Tomlinson have been wrestling for months over health insurance cost increases and whether to pass on a share of the increase to city employees or run a budget deficit by absorbing the entire bill.

Tomlinson has suggested sharing the increase at the same approximately 75 percent for the city and 25 percent for employees ratio that is applied to premiums. A majority of councilors have consistently balked at that, saying city employees shouldn’t be burdened with it.

Finance Director Pam Hodge has said the city will face a $6.5 million deficit at the end of the current fiscal year unless action is taken. Two million of that deficit will be health insurance costs, she said.

Tomlinson and City Manager Isaiah Hugley have tried since October to convince council to share the burden of rising costs with city employees. Faced with opposition from city employees, especially from Public Safety employees, councilors have twice postponed voting on the issue.

At a meeting in early December, several councilors said they want to hear from city department heads and city employees before making a decision. Hence, Tuesday’s special called meeting.

Council will gather at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers in the City Services Center on Macon Road. They will hear an overview from Finance Director Pam Hodge, then short presentations from Public Works Director Pat Biegler, Parks and Recreation Director James Worsley, Muscogee County Prison Warden Dwight Hamrick, Director of Engineering Donna Newman, Election/Registration Executive Director Nancy Boren, District Attorney Julia Slater, Fire Chief Jeff Meyer and Planning Director Rick Jones, according to the council agenda.

After the staff presentations, the floor will be open to city employees to offer feedback.

Tomlinson said throughout the earlier meetings, councilors heard loud and clear from city employees what the impact of sharing the cost increase would be on their family budgets. And they have heard from the mayor, City Manager Isaiah Hugley and Hodge the potential impact on city services should the city shoulder the entire amount.

“Now I think we’ll get the clear impression of what the impact would be,” Tomlinson said. “Will certain city services be stopped or affected and will there be jobs affected?

“They’ve heard it from me, from the city manager and the finance director. I think it will help to hear it from the department heads.”

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