City employees to pay more for health insurance

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 28, 2001

[12/27/01]To help offset the cost of health care and prevent another shortfall, Vicksburg employees’ paychecks will be tapped for about $8 more per week starting in February.

Wednesday, the mayor and aldermen approved new insurance coverage for about 500 full-time city employees that includes a $15.85 increase in the biweekly deduction for family coverage. The changes will start with the first paychecks that go out after Feb. 1.

For the last fiscal year, a $1.7 million budget shortfall at the end of the last administration’s term was attributed to higher-than-expected health costs and overtime.

“With regards to the last administration, we never did what we should have done and bite the bullet,” said North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, the only member of the board who also served in the last administration.

Under former Mayor Robert Walker’s administrations, the city’s $30.2 million spending plan was increased by nearly $2 million. The 37 line-item adjustment was approved three days before the new board took office.

The amendments were needed to adjust for the actual cost of medical expenses and some overtime for police officers. The city’s self-insured health plan ended $1 million above budget by the end of the fiscal year in September.

“We decided to try to resolve this,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens. But, “It should be made clear that the city is still subsidizing these costs significantly.”

For this year, $1.6 million has been budgeted out of taxpayer dollars to fund the employees’ health plan. Last year, that amount had been $1.1 million before the amendments.

The new plan will also increase the co-pays by city employees for medicine, doctor visits and deductibles. There were 545 full-time city employees when the previous administration’s term ended, about 45 more than today.

“I’ve got a family and I have to do it, too,” said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman. “It’s not fun, but we did what we had to do.”

In other matters, the board:

Presented a certificate of recognition to James “Bubba” Rainer, head of the city’s public works department.

Approved a one-year contract with Durham Auctions Inc., of Hattiesburg to auction surplus city property.

Approved a three-year contract for legal research services.

Awarded a bid for demolitions and clearing of property at 1015 Fourth North St., 2340 Grove St. and 909 Bowman St.

Reappointed Carolyn Dent and Mary Ruth Jones to the Vicksburg Housing Authority.

Approved the claims docket.

In executive session, accepted resignations from three employees, hired two employees in the Water Main Department and approved a pay raise for a Youth Services employee.

The board will meet again at 10 a.m. Jan. 7 at City Hall Annex.