August 22, 2014 10:36:45 AM
The city of Columbus, because of looming increases in insurance premiums, will no longer offer health insurance coverage to its retirees.
Councilmen voted to cease offering the coverage Thursday during a budget workshop for the upcoming fiscal year. From this point forward, any retired city employee will not have the option of obtaining insurance through the city. They will have to shop privately.
There are 24 retired city employees currently using the city's insurance. They have 90 days to find insurance on the open market until their coverage under the city ends.
Columbus human resources director Pat Mitchell asked the council to make the insurance-cutting move Thursday.
City chief financial officer Milton Rawle said if the city continues to pay premiums for retirees, a projected $420,730 increase would be added on top of the deficit the city already faces next year. Without retirees, only an extra $16,000 is projected, he said.
Councilmen settled at a projected $300,582 deficit for next year before adjourning. Rawle said that would be paid off with the city's ending cash balance and, if necessary, reserve funds.
The budget, as it stands now, projects $22,966,250 in expenditures and $22,665,667 in revenues. The 2014-2015 budget goes into effect Oct. 1.
Councilmen on Thursday also approved $1,392,990 in appropriations to 22 area organizations. Many of them were approved to receive the same amount they did during the current fiscal year. Columbus Lowndes Recreation Authority will receive $649,693, an extra $39,000 more than this year, mostly to cover increased operating expenses. The council set aside $256,000 for the Columbus Lowndes Public LIbrary, a $6,000 increase. The Golden Triangle Development LINK will receive $120,000 from the city now instead of $110,000. The Greater Columbus Learning Center received $26,500, a $4,000 bump from this year. Building Bridges of Hope received a first-time allocation of $2,000.
The next step on the city budget is a public hearing, which will be held Sept. 4 at the Columbus Municipal Complex. It will be then that councilmen will adopt the millage, which is expected to be 41.23. That's an increase of 1.1 mills from this year to help begin to pay off a $4.5 general obligation bond for street and drainage improvements that are scheduled to begin in October.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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