Update: Controversial healthcare insurance proposal likely to be pulled from Walton County BOC Agenda

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Update

A meeting has reportedly been called to hear public comment at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, on the issue of healthcare insurance for commission members. We will provide updates as they become available.

Update

A controversial agenda item being considered for the Nov. 5, 2019, Walton County Board of Commissioners meeting is unlikely to be up for discussion as had been the original intent. The legal notice that caused such a controversy has been pulled from publication, according to BOC Chairman Kevin Little, and the board is likely to meet to take it off the agenda. According to the legal notice, the board would be taking a look at providing an avenue for former Commission members who had served two terms or more on the BOC to receive healthcare insurance, the cost to be split between the member and the County at a cost to the county of $6,415 per year, per member. No time limit as to how long the benefit would be provided for was given in the notice.

“I know the ad was pulled, which effectively ends it. But the BOC has not met,” Little said, referring the matter to the County attorneys Atkinson and Ferguson. At this time a call has not yet been returned from County Attorney Chris Atkinson.

Little said he polled the board about having a special called meeting to remove the item from the agenda, and it was about evenly split on whether or not to do so. “So it may be on Nov. 5,” Little said. However, it would appear that whether the board votes beforehand in a special called meeting or at the beginning of the Nov. 5 meeting, the item is unlikely to be up for discussion at the meeting.

Initial Story

A legal notice advising of an intent to consider optional lifetime healthcare insurance for former commissioners at the Nov. 5, 2019, Walton County Board of Commissioners meeting has many in the community up in arms.

According to the notice, consideration is being given to extend optional lifetime health insurance to former members of the Board of Commissioners who have served more than two terms of office. The cost would be split between the county and the former commissioner at a cost to the county of about $6,415 per member per year. It would cover the member and his or her spouse and children. If approved, it would go into effect for those serving on the Board of Commissioners on Jan. 1, 2021.

As is evident in social media posts that many in the community are not in support of this benefit and are urging citizens to attend the Nov. 5 meeting to make their opinions known.

“We can’t pay deputies a fair pay or at least comparable pay to surrounding counties, we can’t increase Animal Controls budget to help fight neglected animals, we can’t fix our awful roads and intersections, but they want lifetime healthcare to be provided to them?” said Walton County resident Crystal Carter. She went on to note that current Walton County Board Chairman Kevin Little, who is facing an opponent in 2020, could be trying to secure his healthcare before leaving office, but Little pointed out that if he is not elected he would not be eligible anyway.

“I did not take part in this insurance issue and have not really been following it,” Little said, adding that he and his family do not need insurance. “My wife is a teacher so we will have insurance for the rest of our lives once she retires. This is not an issue with me. They’re just trying to make it a political issue.”

If he fails to be reelected, Little’s term would end on Dec. 31, 2020, and this new policy, if approved, would only cover someone who is in office in 2021 and has served two or more terms.

The Walton County BOC is made up of a chairman and six county commissioners. At a cost of $6,415 per member, that is a cost of $44,905 per year for any of the current board members who have served more than two terms when they leave office. However, it would be cumulative for any members who drop off in the future. With ever-changing healthcare costs, it is difficult to estimate the cost to the county and county taxpayers in future years.

According to Logan Propes, City Administrator for the City of Monroe, city elected officials are eligible for health insurance during their term of office and there is an 18-month transitional period at the 102 % COBRA rate when they leave office.

“But that is only if they were on the plan during their term of office,” Propes said. Robbie Schwartz with the City of Loganville said healthcare insurance is not offered to elected officials with the City and to the best of his knowledge it has never come up.

Anybody who feels strongly about this issue, either way, can sign up to voice their opinion at the Nov. 5, 2019 Board of Commissioners meeting at this link. The meeting begins at 6 p.m.

 

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