By JUDY SHERIDAN
Parker County commissioners set aside about a half million dollars for employee health-care insurance, approved the same tax rate as last year for the FY 2013-14 budget and considered raising the salaries of rank-and-file employees in recent budget discussions.
They also approved salaries for court reporters and county auditors — set by district judges — and heard a request from County Treasurer Jenny Barnwell for salary increases.
Responding to changes brought about by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commissioners approved two new health care plans for county employees in May. Public Employee Benefits Cooperative (PEBC), of which the county is a member, recommended the plans.
With the new plans in place, insurance costs will impact the general fund by about $400,000 and require $20,000 to $30,000 from each precinct budget, according to Employee Benefits Coordinator Jenny Gentry. The court opted to subsidize the plans to soften the blow of the cost increases for employees.
The new monthly rates for county employees will range from $29 to $438 for those who select the High Deductible Health Plan with a Health Savings Account. They will range from $55 to $551 for those who choose the Preferred Provider Organization Enhanced Health Plan.
Most county employees are currently enrolled in a Preferred Provider Organization plan, where the monthly rate ranges from $23.75 to $379.99.
Employees will re-enroll in November, with the changes taking effect Jan. 1.
Commissioners also set the tax rate for the FY 2013-14 budget at 41.3 cents per $100 assessed valuation, the same as last year. The rate breaks down to 26.5 cents for the general fund, 6.4 cents for debt service and 8.4 cents for the Road and Bridge Fund. If commissioners find savings, the rate could still be lowered prior to adoption of the budget, County Judge Mark Riley said, but it can no longer be raised.
During talks about raises for non-elected county employees, Gentry estimated that an across-the-board 3 percent salary increase would cost the county about $425,000.
Commissioners gave county employees a 3 percent salary increase last year and added another 2 percent increase for “guns and badges” in the sheriff’s office.
Precinct No. 4 Commissioner Dusty Renfro said the county should direct its unassigned funds toward the lowest paid employees — those making less than $30,000 annually — as well as to the sheriff’s office.
“I get more phone calls about adding sheriff’s deputies to the streets than any other,” he said.
Commissioners approved court reporter salaries — set by district judges — at $72,727 for those in the 43rd and 415th district courts and at $72,028 for those in county court-at-law No. 1 and county court-at-law No. 2.
The court also approved the auditor’s $494,872 budget, with the auditor’s salary — also set by district judges — at $91,767.
New treasurer Barnwell asked for an additional $6,800 to cover salary increases for her chief deputy, payroll administrator and deputy. She also requested funds for longevity pay, electronic equipment, training and seminars and code books.
In other business the court:
• Discussed lowering the percentage of county tax charged when customers use credit cards in Justice of the Peace offices.
• Discussed collecting millions of dollars in fines and fees owed to Justice of the Peace offices.
• Heard that Barnwell is close to completing a new investment policy that could save the county $100,000 per year.