To The Daily Sun,
Articles in The Daily Sun on Tuesday and Wednesday reporting on Monday's meeting at the county were limited in their coverage. So it is useful to summarize the meeting in order for readers to get a complete picture.
A number of actions requested by the commissioners to transfer appropriations for non-group health insurance purposes were approved essentially as submitted. The group health insurance lines, however, caused concerns.
There are 15 lines in various departments for this purpose. When the county budget was approved on March 4, 2014, the delegation first agreed on a total of $2.594,925 for that purpose (1/10 of the overall county budget). The commissioners were asked to spread that amount among the departments as required for reporting to the state. The commissioners declined to do so, leaving it to the convention. The commissioners had proposed $3,154,725 for this purpose.
As the year progressed, all recognize that numbers of employees and their type of coverage change, causing the department needs to go up or down. On Sept. 29 the delegation approved commissioner requests to transfer $3,000 and $7,448 OUT of group health insurance lines, thereby reducing the overall amount appropriated for group health insurance. Why did the commissioners request this? I don't know.
On Oct. 16, The Sun reported that the commissioners had decided to request transfers, and also reported that their administrator said that some line-items for health insurance are in surplus and the county could end the year spending less for premium contributions than the convention budgeted. (I read "could" as meaning possibly, not definitely). Yet their requests to be considered on Oct 27 to transfer into group health insurance lines included $94,978 to come from appropriations for purposes other than group health insurance purposes and only $10,292 from a surplus group health insurance line. The latter amount was easily approved by the convention, but the discussion indicated that the other group health insurance shortfalls should first come from the surplus already identified in other group health insurance lines, without tapping the appropriations for other important purposes. It first appeared that this would take some time for a revised request, but then it was indicated that a short recess would suffice. Surprise! After a 20 minute break, the commissioners came back with a excellent detailed spreadsheet with a proposed $34,000 transfer out of an identified surplus in one group health insurance line to five other lines for the same purpose. That was easily approved.
Of more significance, was that the spreadsheet also listed the current projected year-end requirement for all departments, information not previously provided. Amazing what can be produced in 20 minutes. We now know that after further surplus transfers from this purpose we'll have only $19,400 shortfall, far short of the $540,394 difference between what the commissioners had proposed for the budget and what the convention had appropriated. The small actual shortfall should be able to be addressed. Had the original proposal been approved, that extra $500,000+ appropriation would have been sent to the towns and added to the tax bills of the county residents. In other words, at budget time the convention estimated low by less than 1 percent while the commissioners estimated high by 21 percent.
Of note is that in 2013, when similar concerns and allegations were made, that the actual need for group health insurance ended up at $43,139 LESS than what this convention had appropriated.
Also of note, because it appeared that many of the crowd on Monday were concerned most about the nursing home, the final request from the commissioners asked to transfer $34,000 out of a nursing home line with only $3,000 going to another nursing home department. We concurred with their plan because the nursing home departments are not the ones coming near to their current appropriations.
Bottom line: cut the hype! There is not a crisis.
By the way, Dave DeVoy, a candidate for commissioner understands the above; his opponent apparently doesn't because he simply parrots the words, allegations, and personal attacks of the current commissioners.
Representative, District 3