News and Tribune

August 29, 2013

Funding questions plague Floyd County

Camm trial expenses, skyrocketing insurance costs pose challenges

By CHRIS MORRIS
chris.morris@newsandtribune.com

FLOYD COUNTY — Floyd County is facing a nearly $1 million combined shortfall in two major tax funds this year, with funding David Camm’s third murder trial being mostly to blame.

On top of that news the Floyd County Council and commissioners received Wednesday at a special meeting, health insurance costs could skyrocket next year. Auditor Scott Clark said the increase could be as much as $1 million.

Now it’s time to figure out how to make up the deficit, and cover the increase in insurance costs.

No decisions were made Wednesday; the meeting was for discussion only. But a decision will have to be made soon on how the county plans to make up the $934,198 shortfall in CAGIT, County Adjusted Gross Income Tax, and EDIT, Economic Development Income Tax, funds in 2013. Do officials use a line of credit, or borrow internally from the cumulative bridge fund and other line items?

Reaction was mixed among both bodies.

“We have a lot of decisions to make as a group,” said Steve Bush, president of the commissioners.

The council could borrow $600,000 from the cumulative bridge fund and then find money elsewhere to make up the deficit, or just use the line of credit.

“Some time or another we are going to have to face the devil on this,” commissioner Chuck Freiberger said. “Whether we take out a loan, or borrow from bridge fund, you have to pay it back. We have to look at the pluses and minuses of both situations. Let’s say we borrow from the bridge fund and a bridge falls in ... I have some real concerns about borrowing from the road fund.”

However, council members Dana Fendley and John Schellenberger seemed to lean toward using the money in-house instead of borrowing and having to pay interest.

“I don’t see any reason to do that if we have the money here,” Fendley said. “It’s easier to pay back yourself.”

Bush said it all comes down to revenue, or a lack of it. He said the council needs to figure out how much revenue will be coming in and decide if it needs to raise CAGIT or make cuts in areas before making a decision.

Clark said he doesn’t have the final terms of the loan, but said it would be for two years, and the Pine View Government Center would have to be used for collateral.

Bush said the county may benefit from using a combination of both the line of credit and bridge fund.

“I am not against the line of credit, but either way it’s a short-term fix,” he said. “You guys [county council] are going to have to look at the hard numbers and see what needs to be done in the long run. That is the answer. We need to look at all revenues coming in.”

The commissioners control the bridge fund and would have to vote to allow the council to borrow the money.

On a positive note, the general fund will have a projected $421,975 balance at the end of the year.

Schellenberger planned a pre-budget workshop for 5 p.m. Tuesday at Pine View to discuss the matter more deeply. The commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“I think we had good discussion tonight,” Schellenberger said. “I think everybody had their say.”



Health insurance increase

Due to increase in catastrophic claims in 2013 and other costs, Floyd County is staring at a huge health insurance increase through Humana in 2014. In the past, the county has absorbed all increases, but that could be difficult to maintain if it goes up to $1 million.

Clark said the county’s insurance agent, Rick Zoeller with Neace Lukens, is looking for the best deal. However, there is no way to avoid some sort of increase, he said.

“It would be difficult for this council to come up with $800,000 or a $1 million increase for insurance,” Schellenberger said. “We need to be able to plan for this. We need to get a committee together and look at alternatives.”

An increase in employee deductibles could be the answer, but Freiberger said most county employees haven’t seen a pay raise in more than a decade so keeping health care costs at a minimum has been their only perk.

Councilman Jim Wathen said the council needs to find a way to budget for pay increases in order to keep experienced, good employees.

“When employees haven’t had a pay increase in 12 years, that is a hard sell,” he said. “How can we find a significant pay increase for these employees?”

Recorder Lois Endris said she already has employees working more than one job. She said if the council raises the deductibles, employees don’t make enough to pay for the increase.

The council will hold budget meetings Sept. 10 following the Tuesday work session.