01STOCK_ROCKCOUNTYCOURTHOUSE

JANESVILLE

Rock County employees’ health care costs are expected to rise next year under the county’s preliminary 2019 budget, but the county administrator says the increases are part of a temporary plan.

According to a Sept. 7 memo, annual insurance deductibles will rise by $100 to $750 for an individual and by $300 to $2,250 for families, and out-of-pocket maximums will jump by $300 for both. Employees will be responsible for all costs until the deductible has been met, and the emergency room copay will increase by $100, according to the memo.

Carla Quirk, president of AFSCME Local 2489, pressed the Rock County Board to find a “creative solution” to the rising costs during the board’s public budget hearing Wednesday night.

About 15 people attended the hearing.

Rock County Administrator Josh Smith said health care costs have been incrementally climbing for years. The average number of claims and costs per claim have increased and have drained the county’s health insurance trust account “somewhat precipitously,” he said.

Smith said his proposal is essentially a placeholder so the county can bring in additional resources and buy time before considering a long-term, stable health care solution next year. Those changes will be discussed in the first quarter of 2019, he said.

Also during Wednesday’s hearing, a handful of volunteers urged the county board to keep the parks community coordinator as a full-time position. Smith has suggested trimming the job to 16 hours a week next year.

Dean Paynter, who sits on the county’s parks advisory committee, said the community coordinator—essentially an assistant parks manager—is responsible for coordinating park volunteers, and stripping the hours won’t help the county’s parks.

“In a position where you have to go to friends groups’ meetings, events on Saturdays … you just can’t do it in 16 hours,” Paynter said after the hearing.

Twelve park friends groups assist with county park maintenance and general upkeep. Paynter said the community coordinator oversees those groups and often spearheads projects and organizes volunteers.

In 2015, Paynter said, a community coordinator led a project to remove vegetation from around the Five Arch Bridge. Brush and trees hid the historical structure, and the coordinator helped get rid of them and expose the bridge again, he said.

Smith said the public works committee has appealed the decision to cut the coordinator’s hours and proposed tacking on $49,343 to the park’s budget next year to fund the position full time.

Smith said the money will come from a nearly $800,000 boost in revenue from a new power line being constructed by the American Transmission Company in the town of Beloit. The parks department will get half of the revenue, or about $398,000.

The finance committee will consider the appeal at its meeting at 7:30 a.m. Thursday. The county board is expected to approve the budget Tuesday.

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