Insurance premiums increasing

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Health insurance premiums for the City of Troy will increase by 20 percent in the upcoming year, but the mayor is working to keep from passing those costs along to the employees.

Troy Mayor Jason Reeves gave an update on the FY2016 budget during Tuesday’s city council meeting, with the primary focus on personnel expenses.

“We pay a portion of our payroll to RSA (Retirement Systems of Alabama) as a participant and our factor when down for the first time in several years,” Reeves said, adding that the city’s contribution for employees dropped from 13.64 percent to 12.52 or from 12.89 to 11.62 percent, depending on the employee’s classifications.

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“Every time we can lower that percentage it helps us and RSA stay solvent,” Reeves said.

However, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama health insurance costs increased by about 20 percent. “So the money they will save in retirement will be eaten up in health insurance costs,” Reeves said.

The mayor said he is working with the treasurer to finalize numbers and the proposed budget, but he seeks to offset those insurance premiums rather than pass them along to the employees.

“I hope to be able to recommend that we absorb that increase rather than pass it on,” Reeves said.

The mayor said he hoped to have a draft of the budget ready for council review by the end of the week. “The good news is all of our revenue looks to be solid,” Reeves said. “As relates to Walmart and the loss of sales tax revenues, that is covered by insurance and we are able to file a claim for that.”

The city also set a record for utility consumption in July, nearly a year after setting a consumption record in August 2014. “That’s good,” Reeves said.

District 5 Councilwoman Dejerilyn King Henderson brought a proposal to the council recommending that annual pay for council members be increased from $10,400 to $12,000. “I’m bringing this up now because any changes to pay have to approved six months prior to an election so they can take effect for the next council,” she said. Her recommendation was taken under advisement, with no action by the council members.

Henderson also recommended that minimum wage for full-time city employees who have passed the probationary period be increased to $10 per hour. “I don’t know how many employees we have who aren’t making $10 per hour,” she said.

Reeves told Henderson and the council that most full-time employees earn at least $10 per hour once they complete the probationary period. “Any who don’t would possible be PATS (Pike Area Transit System) employees, and their salaries are set by the multiple agencies that fund the program,” he said.

In other business on Tuesday, the council:

• Authorized a 772 ordinance, which provides financial reimbursements to CGI as it adds 10,000 square feet and hundreds of new jobs to its Troy location. George Tarbox, local manager, said 80 new employees started two weeks ago and another 80 are scheduled to begin training next Monday. Reeves said the project is creating jobs that range form entry level to high wage-earning jobs and the expansion is truly a “win-win-win” for the community, CGI and the employees. “There are very few places you find that nowadays … I believe it’s going to be very good for our community.”

• Approved a retail beer and win license for Saikhushi Inc., which is remodeling and renovating a convenience store and gas station at 701 N. Three Notch St. The owners plan to reopen the location under the Citgo brand with a convenience store and deli restaurant inside.

• Approved the purchase of a new utilities transformer for the Elm Street substation. The transformer, which will cost approximately $292,749 will upgrade one of the three transformers at that substation, which serves the downtown area and north sections of Troy. The utilities department will refurbish the existing transformer and use it as a backup, if needed in an emergency.

• Rejected bids previously awarded for new vehicles for the utilities department. Ken Cox Ford had won the bid to provide new trucks for the department, but manufacturing issues have prevented fulfillment of the bids. Brian Chandler, utilities manager, said the department will rewrite the specifications and rebid the project.

• Awarded bids for the addition of accessories to four new police vehicles. Sharp Communications won the bids at a cost of about $1,900 per vehicle to add lights and other accessories.

• Awarded a bid for the construction of a multi-purpose building and parking lot Pike County Lake. The project is expected to cost $733,400 and the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has agreed to contribute $400,000. “This is going to provide excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation for our community,” Reeves said. “We didn’t want to bear more than 50 percent of the cost and with this bid and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries contribution, we are within that range.”

• Held the first reading on an ordinance to change the polling location from Academy Street School to the Troy Public Library. “We hope that Academy Street School will be undergoing repairs and renovations during the next election cycle,” Reeves said, referring to the upcoming 2016 elections.

• Paid tribute to the late Dr. Doug Hawkins, who passed away Saturday. “I don’t think I can say anything that can adequately reflect or adequately explain the loss we face in the death of Dr. Doug Hawkins,” Reeves said. “When you serve on a governmental body or board of directors like the Troy University Board of Trustees for 30-plus years and when you the lead the way he led … he had vision; he had passion.

“And our city and university are forever changed because of him.”