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Insurance rates will determine employee raises

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By STUART CASSIDY

Staff Writer

TELL CITY –  Pay increases for county employees in 2019 may depend on news from the county’s insurance broker, Apex Benefits.

During a brief discussion about potential pay incentives, the county commissioners acknowledged last week that the amount employees pay for medical benefits could increase. The board said they were advised last year when Apex took over administration of policies that workers may be underpaying for their share of the coverage. However, the commissioners opted to allow for a year of data to determine how changes in providers – which were expected to reduce overall outlays for medical coverage – may affect those costs.

The figures toward future coverage have not yet been reported and may not come in until next month.

The commissioners said they didn’t want to make a recommendation to the council for an employee raise only to have it nullified by an increase in insurance costs. In essence, Commissioner Larry James clarified that he doesn’t want to see anyone “get less in their pay check.”

The board hopes to have the information they need in order to make a formal request before the county council begins its September budget sessions.

While individual departments have not yet made pitches for raises, highway superintendent Steve Howell told the commissioners that he is again seeking a 5 percent adjustment. Earning 3-percent incentives for workers in previous years, Howell typically initiates discussions at the higher level, denoting “if you don’t ask, you can’t receive.”

He also presented a preliminary 2019 budget that is largely unchanged from the previous year, However, Howell announced that some money had been shifted and at least one position will change duty classification. He explained that they plan to seek an extra $100,000 in motor-vehicle highway account funding to supplement money in their cumulative bridge account to help bolster upgrade capabilities. Howell said a current foreman will be appointed to serve as an operations manager in charge of coordinating projects. He also plans to reinstate a part-time mechanic to ensure all of the department’s equipment is in top running shape as they gear up for the latest round of Community Crossings grant funding which is used to upgrade roads.

Howell sought, and the board signed off on, a letter of support for the grant program, which will likely require a 25 percent local match.