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Tighten belt on benefits

Published 9:58 am Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Much like an article published a few weeks ago that looked at the pay of city employees, an examination of county employee salaries in the March 24 edition of The State Journal revealed a group of hard-working individuals being paid a competitive wage.

Many county employees make less than their city counterparts in jobs of a similar nature, but as the story explained, there are reasons for that: the top elected county positions have salaries set by the state; the countys occupational tax rate is more restrictive; and the county is not levying as much as it could in property taxes.

We were stuck wondering about two things in the article mentioned by Franklin County treasurer Susan Laurenson.

County employees will move into a new downtown judicial center this summer, and Laurenson pointed out the staffing numbers are not yet known. Laurensons quote that, I have heard, from other counties its a big hit, is reason enough to be concerned how the staffing will affect future budgets.

With construction of the new judicial center expected to be complete by August, magistrates need to start addressing now if the facility will require additional staff. Governments cannot afford too many big hits these days.

We hope members of the city commission read the portion of the article in which Laurenson discussed the cost of benefits received by employees. The county is spending about $4,800 per employee for health care while the city is spending roughly $12,100 per employee for health care.

Both sectors, public and private, have been dealing with incredible economic pressures the past few years, necessitating a close look at benefit packages.

Next to salary, the benefits received by an employee are of vital importance, especially health care coverage. Other aspects often include such things as dental and vision packages, personal days, 401(k) plans and a vacation schedule.

When the recession hit, many companies were forced to reduce benefits, for instance making an employee pay a larger share of health care premiums and/or reducing the matching portion of a 401(k).

Some companies or organizations that used to pay for unused personal or sick days, or allowed them to be carried over year-to-year, had to stop the practice. Others dropped such things as dental and vision from their plans.

The city of Frankfort has about 300 full time employees, meaning at $12,100 each, the health care coverage is costing $3,630,000.

It doesnt take a genius in math to see the savings if those employees were under the countys health care plan, but for those without a calculator it is $2,190,000.

Yes, we know the coverage might not be the same. But we cant imagine city commissioners not wanting to sit down with county officials and their insurance provider to take a look at this vast difference in cost.

Laurenson said salaries and health and retirement benefits account for 49 percent of the countys annual budget, compared to more than 70 percent of the annual city budget.

Tim Zisoff has just started as the new city manager. We think examining these numbers should be No. 1 on his to-do list.