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Fairness aim in insurance debate

My Opinion
Ross Schulz, Staff Writer

The Harrison County Council spent some time during budget sessions discussing health insurance and retirement benefits for part-time elected officials.
The commissioners, in 2013, did away with insurance for all part-time elected officials, including themselves, councilmembers, the county surveyor and the coroner.
The unanimous decision was a good one, since part-time employees are not offered the opportunity of insurance and retirement benefits.
Why should part-time elected officials receive something part-time employees do not?
First-term Councilman Kyle Nix, however, brought up an issue with the decision that has merit.
Nix said, while he acknowledged he didn’t expect or want to receive insurance when he ran for office, that it isn’t fair certain councilmembers receive extra benefits that aren’t offered to him and other new councilmembers.
He said he’s doing the same job as the person sitting next to him but is only granted half the compensation.
Regardless of what was decided in the past, that isn’t fair.
The reason some receive insurance and some don’t is because those who received it when the commissioners made the decision to do away with it were grandfathered in until their term ended, regardless if they run for re-election or not.
So, at the end of 2016, none of the councilmembers (or commissioners, surveyor or coroner) will be eligible for insurance and it will be an equal playing field.
But until then, it doesn’t make much sense for some to receive insurance while others don’t have the option.
When the decision was made to do away with the insurance, the commissioners could have implemented a sunset clause, making it available to all until the term ended for those grandfathered in.
That would have avoided the slight to the new class of elected officials who took over Jan. 1 of this year.
Granted, they would only be eligible for the benefits for two years, but at least they would be afforded the same opportunities as their peers.
County officials have yet to determine whether part-time elected officials should receive Public Employees’ Retirement Fund (PERF) or not.
Overall, the council, commissioners and Auditor Karen Engleman ‘ with a big assist to Mark Hamilton, health insurance broker from Neace Lukens ‘ should be commended for completing the budget for 2016 and keeping the health insurance cost the same as the previous year.