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Jefferson County Commission mulls employees paying share of health premiums

July 11, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Jefferson County Commission member Walt Pellish wants the county’s 179 public employees to start paying a share of their health insurance premiums.

The county pays 100 percent of the premiums for employees and 50 percent of the cost of coverage for their families.

The annual cost to the county is $1.8 million a year, according to County Administrator Tim Boyde.

“This is far too rich for this economy,” Pellish told his fellow commissioners last week. “We need to control things better. There has to be more sharing. Our plan is 99 and 44/100s percent better than any county taxpayer pays,” Pellish said.

Pellish, the commission’s lone Republican, has support from some commission colleagues, but not all.

Commissioners Dale Manuel, Lyn Widmyer and Patsy Noland were asked about Pellish’s proposal after the meeting.

“I disagree,” Manuel said. “Jefferson County is not competitive with wages in Loudoun and Clark counties (in Virginia) and in Montgomery County (Md.). We have a more lucrative package on health insurance so we can attract more qualified applicants.”

“This is great for the employees, but not for the taxpayers,” Widmyer said. “We offer an extremely generous insurance program and we’ve been giving our employees pay raises for the last few years. There are a lot of things to look at. You just don’t look at one benefit,” she said.

“I’m willing to take a look at how we can keep costs down,” she said.

Noland, the board’s president, said every employee also receives $1,000 a year in a health reimbursement account to help them with their co-pays. “We offer the best benefits of anyone close by,” she said.

“This is a tough call, but I tend to agree,” Noland said. “Things were different when they weren’t getting raises.”

Noland said she is not ready to take anything away from the county employees’ benefit package.

“We’ll continue to do it as long as we can, but the time will come when we’ll have to look it,” she said.

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