Thursday, March 12, 2009

Brunswick city employees to pay portion of health insurance costs to help cut budget

BRUNSWICK -- Several employee policy changes have been implemented at city hall over the past week in an ongoing effort to slash the city's operating budget. After approving more than $500,000 in cuts to the 2009 budget last month, City Manager Robert Zienkowski said city council OK'd several emergency cost-saving measures Monday, starting with a move that will require city employees to pick up a portion of their medical insurance premiums. Effective April 1 all city employees will be required to pay 10 percent of their medical insurance, in addition to any regular deductibles and co-pays. The policy change is expected to save the city approximately $30,000 in 2009, said Finance Director Bill White.

Efforts to lower the cost of city medical benefits will continue in 2010, Zienkowski said, at which time the city is looking to rework its medical plan. In addition to raising co-pays, he said the city is also considering an increase in its deductibles. The changes, Zienkowski says, will be permanent and will not change even if voters approve the proposed 0.5 percent income tax increase on the ballot in May. "We can't continue to operate the way we did 10 to 15 years ago," Zienkowski said. "Moving forward, we're going to have to continue to makes changes based on the economic times in order to be able to provide the level of service the community expects."

Among the policy changes that are temporary, Zienkowski says, is the citywide hiring freeze the city enacted in February. Along with that, he has opted to suspend all out-of state travel until further notice unless employees are willing to pick up 100 percent of their travel costs. Additionally, he said, the city has revoked its employee meal reimbursement policy that allocated employees a daily stipend for breakfast, lunch and dinner when they were traveling in or out of state. It has also eliminated paid vacations for part-time employees hired after March 15. Zienkowski says the city has also implemented a wage freeze for all non-bargaining employees starting in 2010.

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