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09/25/2019

County Board Talks Budgets, Insurance Costs

 

The Mississippi County Quorum Court’s Finance Committee continued the 2020 budget process on Monday, looking over proposals from the offices of the Collector, Courthouse, Treasurer, and Financial Management.

The board also discussed potential changes to how the county pays employee insurance.

The county currently pays $743 per employee per month for medical only and $9,421 total per year per employee, according to Mississippi County finance director Kelli Jones.

Finance committee chairman Justice Michael White noted the county’s Job Evaluation and Salary Administration Program (JESAP) rating doesn’t include the insurance provided to employees.

“We’re talking about a $1,000 raise — maybe; we’re wanting to look at everything,” White said. “If we went to a 25 percent cost share per employee, it would end up being a little over $2,000 out of the employee’s pocket. But if we turned around and then reimbursed that in the form of a raise, so that we made up whatever the employee had to pay, but it reflected in their salary, it would really boost our standing in the JESAP comparative program and actually put us more in line with other entities. As Justice (Neil) Burge mentioned, I don’t know of any other employment entity that’s paying a full 100 percent other than Mississippi County. I’m not recommending that. I’m just throwing that out there. Just food for thought. Let’s see what they’re going to do with us on our cost. It’s getting really expensive.”

Jones noted the county will be getting quotes from several insurance companies.

She said the county’s current insurance provider had planned a mid-year review, but the meeting was canceled. Jones said another meeting is planned for October, allowing the county to learn potential changes in cost for next year.

“With this being our first year, they didn’t have a whole lot of history to look at, so we had to wait until they got the first good six months of claims in where they could really give us an idea of where we’re going,” she said. “And I have no idea (what the claims were in 2019).”

Responding to justices, Jones said she has heard both positive reviews and a few stories of bad experiences with the company.

However, she said company representatives met with employees having issues and addressed those concerns. County Clerk Janice Currie said she got a bill for $30,000 and that was after insurance paid.

She added the firm denied medication that she’s needed.

“You need to call them,” Jones responded. “They can’t fix it if they don’t know. I can’t fix it if I don’t know. We have a person that is assigned to our account and she’s very good. If you’ll call her and send her everything she asks for, she’ll work on it and tell you what’s going on and what you need to do. I can get you that information.”

Jones added the yearly out-of-pocket cost should not exceed $2,500.

As for the proposed budgets, the Financial Management office projects expenditures of $235,038 ($238,728 with raises). Through Aug. 31, the department has spent $127,267 for the year; expenditures were $211,110 in 2018.

White said the biggest change in the 2020 proposed budget is an additional part-time employee who would shoulder some of the additional workload coming from a change in software.

“It’s a going back to the way it used to be type thing,” White said. “If I say restructuring, it’s really falling back to the original structure that it was.”

He noted the department has three employees but job descriptions for five.

Jones said she is working on new job descriptions for next year.

“Kelli has more on her plate,” White said. “She’s being modest and not telling you how much that she’s got to do. It’s almost overwhelming. You can ride a good horse to death. You can give a race horse too much weight and he just can’t make the race, and if we’re not careful we’re going to do that to Kelli. We’re trying to restructure that office to where it will be more effective and more efficient and get the workload done that the county needs and that the judge needs over in his office.”

Meanwhile, the Collector’s budget has proposed expenditures of $442,175 ($449,957 with raises) compared to $420,424 in 2018.

County collector Susan Goff-McCormick is asking to make Ashley Salomon a chief deputy, as the position has been in the past. Salomon works out of the Manila and Leachville offices.

The Collector and Assessor’s offices will split the salary 50/50, with funding coming from the automation fund.

Another change in the Collector’s office is the addition of an ATM at the Burdette office, which allows customers to withdraw money to pay their taxes with cash and keeps them from having to drive back to Blytheville or Osceola to get the funds. McCormick noted taxpayers must use cash or credit/debit cards to pay delinquent taxes.

The ATM fee is $300 per month; the company requires a minimum of 100 transactions each month.

“I just want to tell her how delighted I am that she can run her office with 8 1/2 employees, and some of the others need 12-13,” Justice Bill Nelson said.

The Courthouse budget projects expenditures of $284,595 ($289,514 with raises) compared to $309,615 in 2018.

Officials said there is some uncertainty about utility costs with the move to Burdette. The Blytheville courthouse will have utility bills from both the current courthouse and the Burdette facility.

Meanwhile, the County Treasurer projects expenditures of $150,959 ($154,032 with raises), which would be down from $157,692 in 2018.

Jones said the biggest change is the new software will be $7,680 instead of $16,000.

The proposed Other County Expenditures — a catch-all — shows projected expenditures of $140,450; 2018 expenses were $209,460.

In other news, responding to Burge, White said thus far the county has spent about $250,000 on the Blytheville courthouse renovation.

White said only court remains at the Blytheville courthouse, and that will be moved to Burdette on Oct. 14.

He said there will be two courtrooms at Burdette — a large jury courtroom and then a small courtroom.

“It will be basically the same services we’ve been providing in the Blytheville courthouse,” White said.

He added once court is moved, the building will be completely vacated and crews will be ready to fully start the renovation project.