With diminishing revenue on the horizon and an unanticipated increase in health insurance premiums looming, Webster Parish Police Jury is looking for ways to reduce expenses.
The total insurance premium is divided between multiple funds, some of which are not WPPJ responsibility. WPPJ only pays for their employees, retirees, jurors, former jurors who served at least three terms, road workers and the coroner.
Responsibilities for 2012 would increase over 14 percent from 2011, according to WPPJ insurance agent Jim Ritchie. Only a five percent increase was budgeted, according to WPPJ Secretary/Treasurer Ronda Carnahan.
Road worker expenses are paid out of a parish sales tax, but the remainder comes out of WPPJ’s general fund. Employee, etc. contributions are not accounted for in the reported figure but ran from 8.5 to 9.9 percent in 2011.
Premiums are not the only expense, though. The policy’s deductible is $1,000, but WPPJ reimburses their employees, etc. for deductibles above $300, totaling a potential $700 per individual per year. However, that expense may not last past the end of the year.
“We’re looking at probably discontinuing that,” WPPJ President Charles Walker said. “We’re not going to do it this year because some have already got it and some are waiting on it. If we can make it without doing it this years we’re going to wait ‘til January 1, 2013.”
WPPJ can reduce their premium with different policy options, but will lose it’s “grandfathering” from The Patient Protections and Affordable Care law. The terms of the insurance policy renewal are expected to be decided in a special meeting later this month.
A number of efforts have already been made to reduce WPPJ expenses.
The new WPPJ policy regarding roadwork done in a municipality is hoped to recoup some of the expense. According to Walker the policy could save as much as $104,000 per year, however, other juror’s disagreed with his math.
“You have the equipment already. You’re not going to sell the equipment,” District 3 juror Daniel Thomas said. “You are not going to save what you are saying.”
WPPJ funds $104,000 that is split between municipalities for roadwork. Walker’s argument is that because municipalities were only paying for materials, and he estimates total project cost to be double the material cost, that WPPJ was in effect paying double the funded amount.
Walker said that charging for total cost would mean that WPPJ would recoup the lost half, assuming municipalities don’t reduce their roadwork by half.
Thomas pointed out that without letting employees go or selling equipment, WPPJ expenses wouldn’t really change. Then the only way to recoup the expenses would be if the municipalities chose to have the WPPJ road crews do work beyond their allotted funding.
A hiring freeze was also instituted in October 2011, and emptied positions have not been refilled.
Thomas said he would prefer to see a “top-down” approach implemented rather than cuts made from the bottom. His proposal, which was discussed in a WPPJ meeting on Thursday, is to reduce the size of the jury.
It remains to be seen if Thomas will be able to generate the support necessary to bring his idea to fruition. It also remains to be seen if Walker’s hopes for the new roadwork policy will generate the dividends he expects.