City Employees to Feel the Budget Pinch

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While Raleigh residents may not feel the effects of cuts in the 2011-12 proposed budget, the same can’t be said for city employees.

The $634.9 million budget is a 2.5 percent increase from last year, with no tax increase.

But at a cost: Cuts and reductions in city personnel. Under the proposed budget, no current employees will be fired, but 35 vacant positions will be eliminated. The city has been reorganizing its staff during the past year, something City Manager Russell Allen said is a continuing process.

“As positions become open, we don’t fill them,” he said. “We look and see if there is reorganization work that can be arranged, we can ask our employees to step up. It’s also a growth opportunity for our employees.”

The budget would also eliminate or suspend opportunities for raises and incentives.

The 1.5 percent range adjustment and merit pay will be suspended. New hires as of July 1 will no longer be eligible for the Award for Service program and those using their Spanish-language skills will no longer be given an incentive for offering their abilities. The City will also reduce the tuition reimbursement limit and matches to the 457 supplemental retirement fund.

Health Care

The cost of employee heath care continues to be a major driver.

“Overall inflation is running at about 8 percent and our health care costs are increasing more like 50 percent,” said Allen. “So, it’s an ever-increasing gap.”

Allen said that the increase for health care is $3.7 million dollars and the new plan would share the burden of those costs. Employees will contribute $1.7 million to that increase.

To help offset the increase, the new budget proposes some major healthcare changes. The city’s health care plan would have two tiers, PPO A and PPO B. Both plans would require employees to pay monthly premiums; they don’t currently.

Employees that opt into PPO B would be required to pay a monthly premium of $40 a month, with extra costs for dependents. Deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays would all increase.

Those that opt into PPO A would have the existing plan’s deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays, but the monthly premium would be $83 a month for individuals.

Employees have a chance to reduce or eliminate their monthly premium if they are a non-smoker and complete an annual health risk assessment.

Allen said the new plan would expand the dependent-care coverage and the city is looking into a co-pay-free clinic for employees.

There will be a public hearing on the budget June 7 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

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