The county’s 2018 budget is one step closer to being finished, though the Forsyth County Finance Committee still has cuts to make before it is balanced and ready for approval in the fall.
At a finance meeting Thursday afternoon, the committee was presented with the proposed health care rates for 2018, which are expected to increase 10 percent over last year.
“We’re working on balancing the budget at that rate, if at all possible,” said Dave Gruen, chief financial officer for the county. “This has to do with claims and other reasons, as well.”
The proposed rate for a single employee, termed EE, insured in 2018 would be $827.10 with an employee contribution of $148.88, or 18 percent. The EE contribution percentage has not changed, though the amount has increased due to the overall increase.
The 2017 rate is $732.34 with an EE contribution of $131.82.
For other rates – when adding a spouse or children – the EE contribution percentage would increase if the 2018 rates are approved.
That increase would be from 14.5 to 16 percent, 14.7 to 15.4 percent and 13.8 to 15.6 percent, respectively, when adding a spouse, child or family.
“The mass majority of our employees will be affected,” Board of Commissioner and Finance Committee Chairman Todd Levent said. “So, if you’re going to make a decision, it should be based on how it’s going to affect the vast majority of those people.
“If [insurance] goes up, people will be upset and they don’t know whether they’re getting a 3, 4 or 5 percent merit [increase] yet, but if you make that adjustment, it’s a little more palatable. I’m looking for morale, also.”
Health insurance rates increased last year, too, Gruen said, but the county did not get a large number of complaints, perhaps due to the 5 percent employee raise that was implemented.
“The 5 percent raise was so significant that the increased [health care] cost on those that use our program was not as bad,” he said.
The committee did not take any action regarding health insurance at the meeting, though they did make several cuts to the budget’s general fund requests and transferred some items to the capital replacement fund.
At the end of last month’s meeting, the deficit – the amount the committee needs to cut to balance the budget – was $1.3 million. That was reduced to either $140,000 or $300,000 on Thursday, pending more information on a budget item.
Some of the requested items cut were: a sheriff’s office tuition reimbursement program – a $60,000 request – because committee members felt the sheriff could find the money in his own budget and because no other department has a tuition reimbursement program; sail shades for patio and picnic tables at Fowler Park; and a reduction in the expected cost to bring county facilities up to compliance with ADA laws.
A $65,000 fire department request for doorbell-type additions to fire stations that would alert firefighters and call 911 if pressed by civilians overnight remains in the budget. Fire Chief Danny Bowman has previously emphasized the need for them.