Trustees debate dropping insurance

WELLSVILLE-With the rising cost of maintaining township roadways and employee healthcare insurance coverage, Yellow Creek Township trustees are concerned the township may soon be left with little money to operate.

At Tuesday’s meeting, trustees discussed ways to save money including dropping the township road employees’ health insurance coverage.

At the township’s annual budget meeting in June, Fiscal Officer Debbie Lyle presented trustees with a 2014 budget with estimated total revenues of $340,118.28 against expenditures estimated at $424,241.19. Trustees say employee health insurance costs make up largest increase in outlays. Last year alone the township spent about half its budget on wages and insurance for employees, according to Trustee Kenny Biacco. This year’s health coverage costs are projected at $74,370.

“We’ve got to do something,” said Biacco. “This insurance is killing us, and it’s going to get worse.”

A recently passed state regulation requires trustees be considered township employees and therefore receive mandatory coverage on the township’s health insurance plan. Two trustees, Kenny Biacco and Mark Allison, previously qualified for coverage under the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System but were forced to give up their coverage under the new mandate.

Trustees say they would like to drop themselves from the township’s health insurance to save the township money. They plan on passing a resolution that will exclude them from the township’s plan at the end of their respective terms. However, two trustees, Glenn McKenzie and Allison, still have the remainder of the this year and two additional years left on their term. Biacco’s term ends December 2013.

In the meantime, trustees say they may have no choice but to drop road department employees Gary Mitchell and Randy Matthias from the township’s health insurance plan. Both men have been given six months warning that they may be dropped from the township’s insurance and have been encouraged to get on a family member’s plan if possible.

“We want to help our guys out, but we just can’t afford what they have now,” said Biacco. “I just wish our budget was bigger.”

Biacco said he has been talking to trustees from surrounding townships about how they handle employees’ insurance costs. Many small, neighboring townships such as Franklin, Washington and Wayne do not provide health insurance to their employees and never have, said the Biacco.

Nearby Madison Township pays the of health insurance cost of employees who are on a family member’s health insurance plan up to $1,000, he said.

The township has until Dec. 31 before it must decided whether to renew or drop its health insurance coverage. For now, trustees say they are exploring all options and are open to any suggestions.

One possible option is to have road department employees apply for health insurance through The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. However, trustees and road employees alike know little about Obamacare or how it works.

A representative from Anthem Insurance is expected to attend the upcoming meeting and provide trustees with some options for keeping employees’ insurance.