In one of their final actions before new members take office, the Shelby County Commission lowered eligibility requirements for county retirees’ life and health insurance.
That will make an additional 2,500 Shelby County employees eligible for those benefits â including two-term commissioners.Â
The resolution requires employees hired after June 11, 2007, to have eight years of service to receive life insurance, capped at $25,000. They must also have a minimum of eight years of service for health insurance after retirement. This is included for deferred retirees. Since 2007, retirees were required to have 15 years with the county.
“In the final hour of the final commission with no study and no background, to vote yourself lifelong health care is at minimum irresponsible and it’s extremely disappointing,” said Commissioner Mark Billingsley, who voted against the resolution.
The resolution passed Monday with a 7-2 majority.Â
Commissioner Walter Bailey said he sponsored the resolution since elected officials with term limits shouldn’t be penalized for their public service.
âThey’re the ones who really make that huge sacrifice, taking themselves out of the private sector and offering themselves to the public sector,” Bailey said. “I just thought it was inherently unfair.â
He said he was not necessarily thinking about commissioners. Since Bailey has served on the commission for more than 15 years, he was already eligible for life and health insurance benefits after retirement.Â
Kennedy: Costs could put budget ‘in a hole’
Harvey Kennedy, chief administrative officer for Shelby County, advised the commission against approving the resolution on Monday.
It has the potential to cost $6-10 million in a year, he said, which would startÂ fiscal year 2020 “in a hole.” The exact cost is unknown, he said, and should be studied.Â
âMy point that I made in the commission that was completely disregarded was if we want to take a look at retiree benefits, lets do it, but let’s get our benefits staff working directly with an actuary to get the data, run actual numbers, come up with a set of scenarios and examine the cost,” Kennedy said.
Bailey said the $25,000 cap was a compromise and that he was not worried about straining the county budget.
âAnytime you have expenditures, its going to have some impact,” Bailey said. “The question is, was it a worthy expenditure?â
Roland regrets supporting measure
Commission ChairwomanÂ Heidi Shafer, the only other person to vote against the resolution, said she didn’t think about how it would apply to the commissioners, but voted against it due to the lack of study on whether it was a good fiscal move.
Commissioner Terry Roland, who voted for the change, said he hadn’t known that it would apply to commissioners. He also thought people would still be required to work 15 years, he said, and he supported it out of a desire to help elderly retirees.Â
If he could, he would withdraw his vote, Roland said.
New commissioners will be sworn in Thursday afternoon, along with mayor-elect Lee Harris, and take office officiallyÂ Saturday.Â
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