As expected, the Van Buren City Council voted Monday night to increase the cost of health insurance for family coverage of city employees.
Alderman Darral Sparkman made the motion to approve an amended plan by Mayor Bob Freeman. Donna Parker seconded the motion and Aldermen Mary Ann Dodd, Alan Swaim, David Moore and Jim Petty made the vote unanimous.
The city will continue to pay 100 percent of employee coverage, but cap its employee with family coverage at the current rate of $900 per month. With a July 1 rate increase, the monthly payments will be $445 for single employees and $990 for family coverage.
An employee would pay about $90 a month and future increases for family coverage with a $500 deductible.
Monday’s vote came after the city was informed by Municipal Health Insurance of a $150,000 rate increase for the 142 city employees, seven elected officials and five retired officials who are covered by city health insurance.
Currently, about $1.5 million of the city’s $13 million annual budget goes to health insurance for 142 city employees, seven elected officials and five retired officials who are covered by city health insurance.
"This not something we want to do," Freeman said, "but we have to break the cycle."
Originally, Freeman had submitted a resolution to the council which would have increased the family coverage for the five retired officials. However, it was withdrawn prior to the meeting and Freeman cited the 1978 ordinance which gives the five free, lifetime insurance.
The five officials were grandfathered in when the practice was ended in 2005.
"To me it is a moral issue they should pay," Freeman said. "But, as a legal issue they will not."
The mayor said it was difficult for him to give former elected officials a better deal that current city employees.
"But, that’s the law and we will have to live with it," he said.
Three of the five retired officials are covered under the family plan. They are Ann Graham, Bill Taylor and Dorvan Wiley. The other two are Gene Bell and Floyd "Pete" Rogers.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the council voted to:
• Reappoint Lisa Huckelbury to the Van Buren Housing Authority.
• Authorized the city to do business with Ultimate Remodel, which is owned by Doug Copple, the husband of city employee Julie Copple.
• Sell a 2011 Crown Victoria police patrol vehicle to Anthony McKenize, who submitted the high bid of $680.
• Donate two 60-inch cut zero turn mowers no longer in working order to the City of Cedarville.