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County has an extra $1 million after whittling down budgets

Jun 25, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The commissioners have proposed using the funds for raising salaries and covering health insurance costs.

After whittling down budget requests at its June 18 meeting, the Fremont County Commission ended up with an extra $1.034 million it could redistribute or save. Two proposed uses of that money were raising salaries and covering the increased cost of the employee health benefit plan.

The commission considered granting a dollar-amount raise for all employees, such as $100 per month, or an increase based on a percentage of the salary, such as 5 percent.

"We have found that across the board percentages only benefit a lot those folks who make a lot of money," said Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese.

"Say we gave 5 percent raises across the board, and you make $35,000 a year, and we do this health insurance costs (increase). Thirty-six percent of your raise gets eaten up by health insurance costs increases," commissioner Keja Whiteman said.

She later suggested giving a flat amount increase for all employees and then giving merit-based raises.

"Where I'm coming from on the salary issue, I'm not thinking it should be a percentage, I think a set amount is the way I'd like to see it," commissioner Travis Becker said.

The group asked Freese to calculate the costs of several scenarios of raises in time for its meeting June 24.

Insurance cost up

The cost for the county health benefit plan increased for the upcoming year by about 15 percent, following decision the commission made in March. Employees currently pay for 15 percent of their health insurance and the county pays the rest.

"I feel health insurance costs are climbing for everyone everywhere," commissioner Stephanie Kessler said. "I think employees have to understand that as part of their share of the costs as well."

Becker suggested asking employees with more expensive plans to pay a larger share of their costs, such as 16 percent.

If the employees continue paying 15 percent, and the cost rises 15 percent, those with the most expensive plans will see their insurance increase by $540 a year to $4,680.

Thompson asked Freese to calculate the cost of continuing the 85 percent and 15 percent division with the added costs for their next meeting.

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Fremont County Commission