Chesterton Tribune

 

 

CEDIT picked over hospital money to pay for county health insurance

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The choice between paying for Porter County’s employee health plan with hospital interest funds and unallocated county income tax money was not a divisive one for the Porter County Council as it voted unanimously 7-0 to tap CEDIT.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Council approved using $2 million in CEDIT, approved last week by the County Board of Commissioners, to pay for health claims, which will keep the insurance fund temporarily in the black.

County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, told the Council an additional $1.4 million will need to be found to get through 2014.

County Councilman Robert Poparad, D-at large, suggested making “a sweep” of the county budgets that have unspent funds at the end of the year to pick up the rest of the insurance costs. “We always end with extra cash,” he said.

Unused money within department budgets for office supplies and part-time help could be transferred to medical expenses, said County Auditor Robert Wichlinski.

Tabled from last month so it would not have to be advertised again, the Council voted 7-0 to reject the Commissioners’ request for $5 million in earned hospital sale interest to cover the insurance fund shortfall.

Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, after the meeting said he’d be interested in leveraging more CEDIT to pay the insurance costs.

Meanwhile, Adams told the Council her board is seeking suggestions from health care experts on ways to save. The Commissioners hired Steve Brady of Heritage Advisory Group of Chesterton to make an independent review of the health coverage plan.

“We’re going to have a better idea of how to cut costs,” Adams said.

Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, said he was “baffled” as to “why we keep holding on to the self-insurance” in light of the fact that 30 employees on the plan make up 50 percent of the reported claims.

The insurance is no doubt the “white elephant in the room,” according to Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, who said he is waiting to hear what the Commissioners can bring to the table in terms of savings.

“It has to be addressed,” said Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large.

Rivas says “no” to first reading

At the start of the meeting, the Council split 6-1 in accepting first reading of the advertised 2015 budgets for departments.

Giving the sole “no” vote, was Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, who told the Chesterton Tribune he dissented because not all departments have made the cuts the Council requested.

The Council’s budget and financial specialist Vicki Urbanik reported to the Council last month that only ten of the 43 County departments cut the recommended 10 percent of their budgets or came close to it.

“Some took it seriously when others did not,” Rivas said. “It’s alarming when we don’t have enough revenue to support the budgets that are submitted.”

The first reading traditionally includes a chance for the public to comment on the proposed budgets. No one from the audience spoke.

The council will continue its task of examining and setting the different budgets, starting tonight at 5:30 p.m. with 911 communications, the Sheriff’s Department and the County Prosecutor.

“It’s going to be a real hoot,” Whitten said. “Let’s come (Thursday) ready for action.”

Municipal review

The Council gave a proverbial “wag of the finger” to townships and cities in the County who budgeted above their yearly growth quotients in their 2015 budgets submitted for a non-binding review.

The statewide growth quotient is 2.7 percent this year, while the County’s growth quotient is 4 percent, according to Urbanik.

Of the 12 townships, only Westchester Twp. submitted a budget below the state growth quotient in its proposed levy. Four townships exceeded the state and county growth quotients in their proposed budgets Đ Portage, Porter, Westchester and Morgan.

For cities and towns, just two did not exceed the state growth quotient in their advertised proposed levies -- Chesterton and Kouts. Only the Town of Pines did not exceed either the state or county growth quotient.

Both the Porter County Library System and the Westchester Public Libraries were below the growth quotients for budgets and their levies.

Of the six conservancy districts, Damon Run was the only one to exceed the state and county growth quotient in its proposed levies. Only Twin Creeks exceeded both state and county quotients.

All six school districts exceed the growth quotients in their proposed levies. However, the two that fell under the quotients in their budgets were Duneland and East Porter Schools.

Those who exceeded the quotients were given a recommendation by the Council to reduce their budgets according to the state’s guidelines.

Council Vice-President Karen Conover, R-3rd, said the state will end up cutting budgets to those taxing units that go over the limits. Budgets are typically inflated when advertised to capture the maximum amount of tax dollars available, she said.

 

Posted 9/11/2014

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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