Council to pay for increase in employee insurance costs
by Chris Norwood
Dec 16, 2013 | 929 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Talladega City Council voted unanimously Monday night to take on the entire cost of a 5 percent increase in employee health insurance premiums, with no additional costs to the employees. The resolution approved Monday repeals one passed in September that split the cost of the increase evenly between the city and the employees.

According to City Manager Brian Muenger, the change will save employees with individual coverage about $73, and employees with family coverage about $250. The overall cost to the city will be about $14,000, which will partially be offset by $12,000 in savings available from having a drug free workplace.

Muenger said the change would be permanent going forward.

The issue of employee benefits came up at the council’s previous meeting, when there was some discussion of giving city employees a “one-time raise” as a form of Christmas bonus. The council was advised by their attorney that this would likely violate state law.

Council President Horace Patterson says he still favors restoring the step-raises, which were not awarded during the present budget, but Muenger said he thought it best to wait until April, when the city has a better handle on the revenue and expenditures for the current year.

The council had also discussed awarding city employees an extra holiday. Muenger said he had studied surrounding jurisdictions and determined that the city gave the same number of holidays as Talladega County and more than any surrounding municipalities. Muegner also said an extra paid holiday would cost the city approximately $25,000 to $35,000.

Patterson said he favored an “all of the above” approach. “We don’t need to just be marching to the cadence of the other municipalities,” he said.

Pointing out that the existing Christmas holidays, for instance, fall on Tuesday and Wednesday this year, he said “It would be nice if they could get Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off.”

Councilman Donnie Miller disagreed. “People need to get ahold of city employees during the week,” Miller said. “But we need to do the insurance now, and we need to do the step raises in April.”

Patterson pointed out “I said and, not or. We can vote the step raise up or down, but I’m not talking about not bringing it up.”

Councilman Ricky Simpson, who had championed the “one time bonus” idea at the last meeting, pointed out that his idea would have cost the city about $10,100, while the insurance increase would cost the city about $14,000.

Muenger agreed the cost was greater, but said “it’s still within the standard pay package.”

In addition to the additional city benefits, Greater Talladega Area Chamber of Commerce Board Member Keela Brown said she and a group of concerned citizens would be collecting hams and turkeys through Friday, which would be delivered to city employees Monday. Councilman Joe Ballow and Miller both offered to provide for any shortfall.

Also Monday, the council:

O Watched a bench at the library dedicated to the memory of late board member and career education Rebecca Newman.

O Rezoned three parcels on Louallen Lane to allow the property owner to place a mobile home there.

O Tabled the rezoning of a piece of property on South Street and sent it back to the Planning Commission for further action.

O Was introduced to the winners of this year’s Miss Talladega County and Miss Teen Talladega County by Ken Brewer. The city helps sponsor a scholarship for the program.

O Reappointed two members to the Heritage Commission.

O Set new operating hours for the Spring Street Recreation Center for 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays.

O Set new recreation league sports fees, including level fees for each sport, a $20 hardship discount and a $10 late fee.

O Approved an assistance to firefighters grant application.

O Designated as city streets Scenic Drive, Lookout Lane and Adams Ridge Lane by a vote of 2-0, with Simpson, Miller and Councilman Jarvis Elston abstaining.

O Formally accepted $175,000 from the Talladega County Commission 2-cent sales tax fund for a water line extension for the Civilian Marksmanship Program.

O Announced that Miller would assume the council presidency Feb. 3.

O Announced that the January meetings would be on Jan. 9 and Jan. 23.

O Thanked everyone involved in the Christmas parade.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com