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12/11/2019

Osceola, County Disagree on Insurance Reimbursement

 

Osceola Mayor Sally Wilson is asking Mississippi County to reimburse the city $22,716 for district court employees' health insurance that she says the county hasn't paid since at least 2016.

The county splits district court expenses 50/50 with Blytheville and Osceola.

During Monday's Mississippi County Finance Committee meeting, justice of the peace Michael White told his board that the county is not legally obligated to pay the insurance of the district court employees, contending that insurance is not part of salaries as Wilson asserts.

According to both White, who chairs the Finance Committee, and a letter from Wilson to Mississippi County Judge John Alan Nelson, the county has been reimbursing the city of Osceola one-half of the salaries, FICA, Medicare, and pension benefits but not insurance benefits.

Wilson says the county owes $8,559 for 2016; $5,478 for 2017; $4,486 for 2018; $1,392 for the first quarter of 2019; $1,409 for the second quarter of this year; and $1,392 for the third quarter.

She wrote that the reimbursement money go towards four SkyCop cameras, including one near the Osceola courthouse and another near the levee. The total cost of the SkyCop cameras is $29,503.

"This has been an ongoing discussion between the city and the county," White said. "We try to pay the exact same district court expenses for both the city of Blytheville and the city of Osceola, and it is fairly well dictated and spelled out in state statutes exactly what the county is responsible for. Truly, in that, all these years we have not found that we are responsible for insurance for those employees' salaries. Osceola has always maintained that insurance is part of their salaries and the county has disputed that. Since 2016, we have not done that for either city. If we do that for one, we will need to do it for the other."

He said in 2016 attorneys told the county that it wasn't required to pay for insurance, and the county stopped the practice at that time.

"From a legal standpoint, the county is meeting our obligations," White said. "According to the Arkansas Association of Counties, we are not subject to paying for half of their insurance."