Saturday, July 16, 2011

City of San Angelo Wins ERRP Lottery! (Inaccurate Rumor)

Eight months ago Mayor Alvin New and City Manager Harold Dominguez called federal funding for early retiree health care "iffy."  Councilman Johnny Silvas referred to as "lottery money."  Low and behold, the City finally filed a claim for ERRP reimbursement.  In America's ERRP lottery, a claim is a winning ticket.  A City Council person told my source, COSA's initial prize is $150,000, ..

The ERRP recipient list as of June 17 does not include the City of San Angelo.  It does include a number of other Texas cities.  It's unclear what period of time the $150,000 covers.  ERRP pays for cases from June 1, 2010 to when the money runs out.  The City is able to file quarterly claims and could get another ERRP check before City Council deals with health coverage in early October.

What does this bode for the upcoming health insurance budget?  Say the city has $300,000 in its ERRP lottery bank.  Add the savings of $190,000 from 45 employees and retirees dropping coverage on January 1, 2011.  That's $490,000 to go toward any health insurance increases.  That's well short of funding a 25% health insurance increase.

When the City qualified for ERRP in August 2010, HR's Lisa Marley stated:

“It will either be a better benefit or their premiums can be lowered." 

It's neither to date.  Premiums rose, for some dramatically on January 1.  That cast 192 people from the City's health insurance rolls, with 147 of those retiree or employee dependents..

What about a better benefit? The City is soliciting health insurance bids, with the best option the status quo.   The same isn't better, but it might be worse.  The other three bid options have fewer benefits/more cost sharing than the current plan.

In December 2010 Councilwoman Farmer told city workers and retirees that she would not ask the public to pay more taxes to meet promises made by prior councils.  The word is Council plans a 4 cent drop in the tax rate.  City Manager Dominguez has plans:

He is hoping the city can both cut taxes and raise city employee salaries during the next budget cycle — and that it is looking at a variety of cost-saving provisions to help make those goals more achievable.

Will Harold finally talk about ERRP in the July 19 Council meeting?  Is he willing to put all his cards, i.e. ERRP checks on the table?

If Dominguez can pull off his goal of cutting taxes and raising salaries, that should burnish his resume.  I hope he cites his record of pitting early retirees vs. employees and keeping information about ERRP (the program that shall not be named) a virtual secret from the public.

Update 8-25-11:  City Public Information Officer Ty Meighan told me the City had not applied for ERRP reimbursement   The formal answer from HR and Risk Management Director Lisa Marley was "no new news."  Who can you trust to give accurate information, a City Council person or paid City leaders? 

Update 9-4-11:  ERRP is listed as an agenda item on the Council's September 6 agenda. It's only a year late and $300,000 short.

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