Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The 59 minute budget hearing.

Click on image to enlarge.
That's right: started at 5:30, gaveled to a close at 6:29 with very little comment from commissioners. Literally, not one single word from Steve Berry. Most intelligent and germane comments from Chip Keene. Most of the speakers were there to speak in favor of full funding for the Bryan-Lang Historical Library. Jim Stein represented the library employees. Some other attorney about Jim's age (sorry, missed his name) spoke eloquently and at some length in favor of NOT dropping a $20,000 county supplement which apparently represents Camden's share of the support of a five-county co-op program for a team of full time attorneys to represent indigent defendants. He said that if Camden welshed, other counties likely would too, then program would collapse; judges would appoint private attorneys; and costs would increase by several hundred thousand dollars. Surprisingly, no expert input from Berry on that - or anything all night. It looks like with the end of this fiscal year fast approaching, total county FY-09 budget will wrap up at $27,540,457. The proposed FY-2010 budget is lower at $26,530,953. Goals for formulating FY-10 budget were to not use any of the fund balance (rainy day funds); maintain present millage rate of 11.70; maintain hiring freeze; no raises and no COLAs. Some cuts that are under consideration are: outsourcing of county EMS services; across the board pay cuts of 1-5% (as Commissioner Keene explained, only if the economy goes even further South and as a last ditch alternative to actually firing people); consolidation; reduction of county contribution to employee retirement plan; and "adding fees to property tax bills" (that was never elaborated upon). Some possible adjustments to final budget might be an increase (restoration) of $55,000 to the Bryan-Lang Library; $25,000 tot he Camden County Public Library (Gross Rd.) for new books; and $50,000 to the CCSO for two new cars. CCSO budget director made presentation saying that on what they have been budgeted in the proposed budget, the CCSO will likely run completely out of operating funds in late January or early February of 2010. This elicited no comments whatsoever from commissioners. There was, however, one little bit of good news for taxpayers. I'm guessing that they may have heard from a few folks as the result of my analysis of the health plan. All of them, including St. David, signed on to the following three changes to the health plan, effective just as soon as they can notify the employees of the changes. The premiums will change as per the scanned schedule above. Note that I did a cut and paste job on Staci Bowick's original which included some inside baseball figures on how the premiums are now and henceforward indexed to the plan's COBRA premiums. They are, as of tonight, indexed to 10 % of COBRA, where they were at only 7.82%. See why I cut and pasted? You can see the anticipated savings on the right hand side. The premium increases in absolute dollars per plan participant are quite minimal and still constitute a very generous, below market deal for county employees and a better shake for taxpayers. The commissioners agreed to two more cost saving adjustments suggested by Ms. Bowick. First, the emergency room co-pay went up from $100.00 t0 $250.00 to discourage what has historically been a huge and abusive over utilization of the ER after hours in lieu of loosing a day's work to go to a much less expensive doctor's office visit from 9 to 5.. The estimated annual savings to the plan is $25,000. Secondly, the co-pay for a visit to an out-of-network provider was raised from $20.00 per visit to $50.00. You will recall that I pointed out in my analysis that the status quo allowed visits to both in and out-of network providers for the same $20.00 co-pay, thereby providing no incentive/disincentive dynamic. That change is also estimated to save $25,00 annually. The $64,000 question is will the commissioners have the political courage to stick to their guns and face down the employees until they vote on the budget on June 2nd. Remember, commissioners: there are way more of US who vote than them!!
Addendum, 5/21: Link to today's relevant GTU coverage.
See the new poll on the health care plan changes.


Anonymous said...

No employee should have any complaints about the cost of their insurance coverage reguardless of how much they don't make. It may as well be free, based on what we (taxpayers) have to pay to have our insurance coverage.
I do not agree that the commissioners should be entitled to the insurance coverage.

Anonymous said...

Steve Berry could'nt say anything! To much information has been exposed this week. How could he possibly speak out on any of the budget when he has cause it to inflate. The smartest move he could've made was to keep quiet.

Camden County is in terrible conditions. It's every man for himself. If you vote with me to skim this, I will vote with you to take that.

Anonymous said...

If the Commissioners have declared that there will be no raises, no hiring, etc. Why have they budgeted so much money for increased salaries, fica and retirement in the proposed budget. After looking over their proposed budget, it appears that thousands of dollars are budgeted for these increases. Why not take that money and move it to the areas that really need it like Bryan Lang Library, indigent attorneys funds, CC Library and especially the Sheriff's Dept. It is obvious that if that dept cannot be run properly on $6 million how do our BOC think it can be run on $5 million. The Sheriff is going to be starting out in the hole.

Jay Moreno said...

Okay, you imply that you are privy to the "information (that) has been exposed this week." Is it top secret? Why are you not telling us what it is? How has Berry caused this curent budget or the FY-10 budget to inflate?

If you actually attend or watch CCBOC meetings, you would know that Berry is, in fact, a budget hawk. Ask the sheriff.

As to Berry's silence, my money, especially from the sour look on his face, is on the high probabbility that he was keeping his powder dry for the next meeting, on June 2nd (when they will actually vote on the FY-10 budget. Don't be surprized if Berry launches on St. David, pointing out, and quite correctly, that if St. David, E.B, and Preston had heeded Berry's repeated annual warnings against dipping into the fund balance over several years for non-emergencies in order to artifically suppress the millage rate for their political advantage as incmubents, the county would not be in the dire straights it is in today.

Anonymous said...

"the county would not be in the dire straights it is in today."

No the County would'nt be in dire straights if Berry and Howard had'nt taken a page out of BTW playbook and created their OWN harem (with automatic increases ALREADY in place). How do you justify Daniels, especially!

Jay Moreno said...

Perhaps yuo can go back to past posts and point out where I have ever "justified" Danny Daniels.

As to Berry and Howard, it would appear that you, like Sandy, have Berry Derangement syndrome. As to Howard, are you a county employee whose talents command less pay than Howard and his so called "harem?"

Anonymous said...

"No employee should have any complaints about the cost of their insurance coverage reguardless of how much they don't make"

darn right- Just took a look at our health care premiums and they are TWICE what the new higher county ones are for a family with full coverage, which is only 161.28.

Jay Moreno said...

Note: this was posted to the wrong post. I moved it for the commenter.

"Jay Moreno said:

As to Berry's silence, my money, especially from the sour look on his face, is on the high probabbility that he was keeping his powder dry for the next meeting, on June 2nd (when they will actually vote on the FY-10 budget. Berry was literally stone cold silent - not one word.


The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the FY-10 budget, not to sit and wait to discuss the FY-09 or past budgets. Face it! He is a BIG part of the current problems."

No, that was not the purpose of the meeting. I was a public hearing - i.e., the opportunity for the commissioners to hear from the public. You have it confused with a budget workshop. All of these things are free and open to the public. You should come to some, then you would know the difference. Moreover, if yuo would follow county government refgularly, you would know that the biggest budget hawk is Berry, far and away - although Keen is showing promise in that regard.