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Twp. health care contribution stays at 5 percent

November 28, 2012 - Oxford Township once again opted out of a state law regarding the funding of health care benefits for elected officials and public employees.

Instead, the three elected officials and six employees will continue to pay 5 percent next year as they did this year.

The vote to opt-out was 5-2, however, the motion to continue paying 5 percent squeaked by in a closer 4-3 vote.

"Most people outside of government pay more than 5 percent," said Trustee Sue Bellairs, who voted 'no' because her understanding was the board was going to keep voting 2.5 percent increases each year.

That was former Trustee Mike Spisz' plan.

It called for a gradual approach to increasing the contribution so as not to instantly impose a heavy financial burden on the officials and employees.

Originally, elected officials and employees paid nothing for their medical coverage, which includes dental and vision.

They began paying 2.5 percent in 2011. That increased to 5 percent this year.

Before he was elected to the Oakland County Board of Commissioners to represent District 3, Spisz envisioned the official/employee contribution increasing to 7.5 percent next year and 10 percent in 2014. He tried to make that happen at September's board meeting, but it failed in a 3-3 tie.

"This was the road we were on," Bellairs said. "We wanted to keep going back in increments."

Supervisor Bill Dunn noted this is a "new board" now and it's up to them to decide.

Last week was the first township meeting for trustees Jack Curtis and Patti Durr, who replaced Spisz and Joe Bunting.

Next year, the township will pay a total of $175,501 in health insurance premiums. That amounts to an 8.54 percent increase over this year's rates, according to Clerk Curtis Wright.

The three officials and six employees combined will be responsible for $8,775 of that total, leaving the township to pay the balance of $166,726.

Under the township's plan, it costs $7,835 per year to cover an individual; $18,804 for two people; and $23,505 to insure a family.

Paying 5 percent for their health care is a far cry from what the state law would have required had the township board not voted to opt out. That law, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2012, gives two options regarding cost-sharing.

The first is a "hard cap" under which local governing units and school districts cannot pay more than $5,500 annually in health care costs for an individual, $11,000 per year for a couple and $15,000 annually for a family.

Option two allows public employers to pay no more than 80 percent of the premium to medical, optical and dental benefits. The other 20 percent or more would be paid by public employees and elected officials who receive medical coverage.

The law allows local governments and school districts to exempt themselves for one year from the aforementioned funding requirements if approved by a two-thirds vote of its governing body.

In order to extend the exemption each year after that, a two-thirds vote of the governing body is required each time.

In the township board's case, that's at least five votes.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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