Columbia budget amendment would reduce cut in health care subsidies

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 | 11:29 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Retired city employees could see only a 50 percent cut in their health care subsidies after the Columbia City Council unanimously approved an amendment to City Manager Mike Matthes' proposed budget for fiscal year 2013, which originally called for eliminating the health care subsidies entirely.

A final vote on the budget by the council is scheduled for Sept. 17. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Mayor Bob McDavid said he was concerned that allowing the subsidies to continue past the five-year agreement passed in a 2007 resolution would reduce funds that could be used for public safety.

“I feel for these retired workers and I honor the agreement,” McDavid said. “But the decision to fund the subsidies is three cops we don’t hire.”

The amendment, proposed by Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp, could be a relief for the 166 retired city employees faced with rising health insurance premiums for plans that cover 88 spouses and 10 children. Instead of a drastic cut, the amendment will phase out the subsidies over the next two years. Half of the subsidies will be cut in fiscal 2013 before being eliminated entirely in fiscal year 2014.

In other action Tuesday night

The council voted against an amendment, proposed by Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl, to reduce the building permit fee increase by 50 percent. The reduction would have made property cheaper to purchase.

McDavid said he didn’t think the city could afford to reduce the fee. First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt said he was concerned the reduction would be unfair to taxpayers.

“Why should general taxpayers have to take the burden instead of those actually purchasing the property?” Schmidt asked.

The council also voted against deleting a full-time position for a lawyer dedicated to legal issues involving police. The position was suggested by Police Chief Ken Burton and consultant Eric Anderson because of the amount of legal work handled by the Columbia Police Department and the City Counselor's Office.

Missourian reporter Richard Webner contributed to this report.

Supervising editor is Jacob Kirn.

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