Focus switched from the importance of funding tourism to the cost of employee health insurance when the current Ste. Genevieve Board of Aldermen had its first budget work session last Thursday.
In past meetings, tourism — with its $240,000 budget had generated the most debate — as the aldermen looked to bring expenditures down.
When they actually delved into the budget process Thursday, however, the money spent on employee health insurance became the focal point.
For Fiscal Year 2018, the city had budgeted $273,227 for health insurance. It was bumped to about $330,000 for Fiscal Year 2019, which began on October 1. City treasurer Sue Schweiss said, however, that if the figures stay on the pace of the first seven months, the actual expenditure will be $256,356.
Ward 1 Alderman Gary Smith, a longtime teacher at Ste. Genevieve R-II Schools, and Ward 2 Alderman Bob Donovan both expressed serious concerns about the cost of the coverage the city is providing for employees and their families.
“My whole question about the budget and being balanced and stuff, not that I think there is anything illegal going on and stuff, but are we really looking, are we really spending our money wisely?” Donovan asked. “Have we kept up with the changes in time?
“I hate to bring this up, but the subject is there. The subject of health insurance came up.”
He returned to a theme he had raised during the August 2018 budget meetings. At that time, Donovan had mentioned other businesses that did not allow spouses to be insured if they had insurance available from their own employers.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in business in four different communities,” Donovan said. “Not all those communities do what we do. I think we need to look at those things, and we need to take a hard look at ’em, in trying to be fair to the taxpayer. I’m speaking not only on this board, but as a taxpayer. I’m concerned about some of those things and stuff. Unfortunately, times have changed, and I think we really need to take a hard look at how we’re spending our money and do it wisely … be transparent.”
Smith agreed that health insurance was a key issue to discuss.
“It is timely, because the largest entity that is subsidized by taxpayers, the school district, just did their medical and their dental and optical,” Smith said. “It’s also the fourth largest employer in the county and the city.
“The school board has a cap in regard to how much they give to their staff and faculty. I think we should start to think about being in line with the fourth-largest employer and the most publicly-funded [entity].”
See complete story in the May 15 edition of the Herald.