Health care savings plan initiated for elected county officials

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

The Morrison County commissioners have approved the establishment of a health care savings plan (HCSP) for all elected county officials through the Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS).
The policy was approved at Monday’s meeting, effective immediately.
The policy is intended to reduce the financial burden of health care after an elected official who has served a minimum of one full four-year term leaves that office and employment with the county.
“Morrison County has been talking about deploying some type of Health Care Savings Plan for elected officials for many years,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber. “This concept came to light to recognize and attempt to help bridge the compensation gap between hired county staff and elected officials.”
Hired county staff participate in the current paid time off (PTO) system and some tenured staff also have extended sick banks. Unused PTO or extended sick time can typically be cashed out annually and at the time of separation, which can result in added compensation.
The approved plan will contribute 3 percent of the official’s gross annual salary for every full four-year term served.
“This is similar to policies existing in other counties and is an attempt to bridge the compensation gap at the time of separation between elected officials and hired county staff,” said Gruber.
The second component of the approved HSCP is in reference to time earned by county employees who later become elected officials.
“The PTO or extended sick bank time is money the county owes to these individuals; it is time they have earned as employees,” Gruber said.
By putting those funds into an HCSP, both the county and the employee save money. If the funds are directly deposited into an HCSP, they are tax-free for both the employee and the employer. The tax-free money is then able to be used for health care expenses for that individual and their dependents and the county doesn’t have to pay payroll tax as they would have if the money had been paid out directly to the employee.
“It really is a win-win situation for both sides in that respect,” said Gruber.

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Other business that came before the Morrison County Commissioners Monday included:
• Authorizing a joint powers agreement with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) for the completion of background checks for individuals requesting licenses for day care, unlicensed individuals paid through sliding fee daycare funds and relatives asking for contact with children involved in child protection cases;
• Approving a request by Social Services to fill the vacant child support officer position due to a resignation;
• Approving the 2013 contract with the state for home- and community-based services for disabled individuals. The funds are used to maintain individuals in their own home or to stabilize a person in placement so they can remain with the foster family;
• Approving 179 food, beverage and lodging establishment liquor licenses;
• Approving four 2013 annual food, beverage and lodging establishment licenses pending full payment of the 2012 real estate taxes by Jan. 30 — Big Adventures Child Care Center, Herbie’s Bar and Lounge and Polish Palace, all in Little Falls; and Jordie’s Trailside Cafe and Catering in Bowlus;
• Approving the transfer of $161,000 from the general fund to the building fund to pay for the Public Health Building chiller (air conditioning unit), utilizing the fund balance instead of levying new dollars;
• Approving the revised 2013 final levy of $17.536 million. There was no change in the total levy; funds were redistributed from the preliminary levy;
• Approving the final 2013 levy of $37.832 million, an increase of 8.66 percent. “Place holders were put in the general fund for settlements in the labor negotiations with employees,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber, “and negotiations continue to be a work in progress;”
• Authorizing a resolution to increase the 2013 solid waste service fees for licensed solid waste hauler from $26 per ton to $27, self-hauler from $35 per ton to $36, with no change to disposal preparation fees;
• Authorizing the renewal of licenses for solid waste hauler, recycling haulers and facility operations;
• Authorizing a change in charge accounts for waste disposal to reflect a reduction in number of days allowed for outstanding account balances from 60 to 45;
• Approving a tentative labor agreement with Teamsters Local #320 for the jailers and dispatchers for a 1 percent increase in 2013 and a 2 percent increase in 2014; and
• Amending the resolution setting the annual salaries of county commissioners to reflect an effective date of Jan. 7, due to a typographical error.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Morrison County Commissioners will be Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the Board Room of the Morrison County Government Center.

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