Tuesday, August 30, 2011

San Angelo City Council Outlasts Budget Commentors

This City Council report is from a concerned citizen who shares my interest in area citizens retaining health insurance coverage.  I've interspersed my comments with their assessment of today's budget meeting:
This was the most discouraging City Council meeting I have attended. The budget discussion did not begin until 3 pm so by that time only the hard-hard-hard core of us was left!
City Council wedged a 90 minute Executive Session between the morning business and the afternoon budget hearing.

On the part of the council members, their total discussion was focused on proposed salary increases for current employees. Staff has proposed percentage increases differentiating between "meets expectations" and "exceeds expectations".   But Dwain M counter with a proposal to take all the funds and distribute then on a per capita basis as a "bonus" not a salary increase. This was of mixed appeal: some viewed it as a plus because it would give greater per centages to lower paid and would not commit that amount to next years budget should it be a bad year. But Harold countered that no salary increase would diminish stated objectives of improving salaries relative to other cities.

And how do those stated objectives relate to the City Manager's bonus pay?
City workers will need increased pay for health care, either increased insurance costs or increased patient responsibility due to poorer benefits. The best option in the health insurance RFP is maintaining the current plan.  The rest are benefit cuts.

In the long run, they (largely led by Alexander and Hirschfeld) put together a mixed proposal: higher % increases possible for "meets expectations" for lower paid folks and with lower rate for higher paid --- then for "exceeds" group a possible bonus payment.

I contacted Rep. Paul Alexander with my recent posts on no budget increases for health insurance and retiree coverage, given the city's inability to file an Early Retiree Reimbursement Program (ERRP) claim.  He never replied.  After meeting face to face with most council members on health care in May, I e-mailed data on other Texas cities getting ERRP money.  Not one e-mailed me back.  Does anyone detect a pattern?

Not one word was spoken about retirees and/or health insurance until I got up to do so briefly -- heads nodded but absolutely nobody picked up and commented on retirees or health insurance. Immediately thereafter they approved the "mixed" proposal.

Silent on retirees?  Harold and Human Resources Manager told Councilman Morrison in June that retiree representatives could be added to the Insurance Advisory Committee.  How many times do City leaders need to ignore retirees before the media or public notice?

The final (budget) hearing will be at 9 am on Sept 6.  The only semi-good news is that Charlotte Farmer asked for an update on the ERRP application/funds. Have you shared any of your data with her on drop outs etc?

Retired Police Chief Russell Smith communicated with Councilwoman Farmer, among other elected officials, on ERRP.

Nearly a year after the City's ERRP application was approved, an elected leader asked about the program "that shall not be named."

If leaders can't talk about this in front of a nearly empty room, my next question is taboo:  How do the city's retiree health insurance moves impact Harold's incentive pay?

I find the City's obfuscation around ERRP and retiree health insurance continually brazen, and frankly, quite sad.

Update 9-4-11:  The above slide was shown during the August 30 Council meeting.  While employee/retiree health care implodes, the economic development kingdom explodes.   Recall the City's $1 million tax break for Ethicon's maintaining employment and improving facilities.

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