Garfield County workers to get pay raise and full health plan, but future benefits uncertain
Garfield County commissioners agreed on Monday to give both a 5% raise to county workers next year and cover 100% of their family health insurance costs.
Whether the county will be able to continue on that path in future years is a big question mark, though.
“I just want the public to know that the health insurance we have is a great blessing and a great benefit that our employees get,” Commissioner Mike Samson said, noting that as a county commissioner, he also benefits from that health plan.
“I don’t know how much longer the county can continue to pay (full costs) to cover a family, plus give raises,” he continued. “Something has got to give. … It’s eating us up and will continue to eat us up.”
Commissioners on Monday adopted a $108 million county budget for 2022. That budget reflects both the 5% pay raise aimed at retaining county workers and attracting new employees to fill vacant positions.
It also absorbs a 7.5% health insurance increase, which resulted in a $900,000 jump in costs to fully cover workers and their families. That cost now stands at about $12 million.
Samson had previously suggested reducing the pay hike to 3% in order to soften the blow. Another option would have been to pass some of the cost for dependent/spouse or full family coverage on to the employee.
Doing so would essentially wipe away any benefit from the pay increase, Garfield County Human Resources Director Diane Hayes said during the Monday budget presentation.
A county worker making $60,000 a year would see a $3,000 increase in pay under the 5% merit hike, but the extra pay would be more than eaten up with a $3,100 hit for keeping a family health insurance plan, Hayes explained.
Commissioners ultimately agreed to absorb the full cost of employee and family health insurance, and to give the raise.
But, as Samson said, something will have to give in future years unless the county’s revenue situation improves drastically.
In fact, something did give this year, by way of $1 million in cuts that were made during the budget process, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.
He noted that both the pay hike and insurance costs came up numerous times during those discussions, and department heads were asked to find areas of their budgets that could be cut.
“We have been fiscally conservative in doing that,” Jankovsky said, acknowledging that either more cuts will need to be made or new revenues realized to stay on that path.
The 2022 budget includes seven fewer county workers than this year, at 489 employees. That’s also one fewer than the proposed 2022 budget that was presented in August, Jankovsky noted.
The county budget for next year also represents a drawdown in reserve funds of $8.7 million.
Final budget approval is still subject to certification of the county mill levy and formal appropriation of funds, which happens in December.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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