By MATT KOESTERS
The Clark County Commissioners unanimously voted at their Thursday meeting to pass property and casualty insurance-related costs to the county’s department heads in lieu of declaring another emergency to pay the bills out of the county’s cumulative capital fund.
“The reason we made the decision is because the county council zeroed out our insurance premium account,” Commissioners President Jack Coffman said. “We have no money in that account now to make those payments for workman’s comp and our property and casualty liability [insurance].”
The commissioners had voted to declare an emergency at its April 28 meeting to pay $193,213 out of the cumulative capital fund — which the commissioners control — for workers’ compensation and general liability insurance premiums, as the deadline to pay those bills was the next day and non-payment would have resulted in a lapse of coverage.
“Now we have another premium coming due here in May, so we determined since we do not have the money in that account, that we would relay that cost onto the department heads and then the department heads can go to the county council for an extra appropriation for their portion of what that premium is,” Coffman said.
The commissioners said it is the responsibility of the county council to pay for things like insurance out of the county’s general fund, and said that the Indiana State Board of Accounts had written up the county in the past for violating state statute by using the cumulative capital fund as a second general fund.
“It is not the commissioners’ responsibility as the executive and legislative branch to do the fiscal matters that need to be done in Clark County. That is the county council’s responsibility,” Commissioner John Perkins said. “If they would like for the commissioners to do the county budget, maybe we would agree to do it for them, but that’s their responsibility. They set the budget, and then that’s it.”
The commissioners will join the council for a potentially contentious joint workshop meeting Monday.
“That meeting is basically to discuss those issues, because one thing, the largest budget, which is the sheriff’s budget, is in the most dire emergency situation in being funded,” Coffman said. “So the meeting is to determine how the county council is going to try to rectify the sheriff’s budget.”
Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden said in a recent interview with the News and Tribune that his department is $2 million short for payroll after budget cuts. He estimated the chances that he will sue the county to force payment of his bills at 60 percent.
HEALTH INSURANCE RENEWAL TABLED
Though Agent of Record Diane Swank pushed for the commissioners to approve a renewal of the county’s health insurance policy through Humana, the commissioners instead elected to recess their meeting while they mull the new policy.
The commissioners will reconvene on Tuesday at 10 a.m. to discuss how they will mitigate more than $143,000 in additional costs stemming from health coverage.
Among the measures being considered by the commissioners to reduce the financial impact of the county are increasing monthly costs for current and retired county employees, as well as a “spousal carve-out” policy that would only allow spouses and adult offspring of county employees to participate in the county’s coverage if they have no other coverage available to them.
AMBULANCE CONCERNS ADDRESSED
The commissioners addressed concerns raised by Borden resident Iyta Bernstein, who said a relative of hers had a frightening experience with a Rural-Metro Ambulance ride last month.
Rural-Metro voluntarily terminated its contract with Clark County last month after concerns about run times and compliance with county policies were raised by Dr. Kevin Burke with the Clark County Health Department. Yellow Ambulance and New Chapel EMS have begun covering the areas formerly serviced by Rural-Metro.
“If anything, your service has been improved,” Coffman told Bernstein.