Evansville leaders have less than a month to finalize fire department contracts, and with it health insurance changes before next year.
Rising health care costs have been a tense topic in the latter half of 2016, but the city passed a budget in October; locking in higher premium and deductible rates for city workers.
The Administration worked to reduce the increases “significantly” over the initial proposal, says council leadership, to the point where council members say they can’t be lowered any more.
Many thought the higher rates were still too much, though, and the police and fire union filed and injunction against the city. Some employees say the drastic price hike will bankrupt their families, or least put a serious strain on the finances.
The injunction ruling is expected Tuesday from Vanderburgh County Judge, Les Shively at 11 a.m.
Depending on the outcome, it could drastically change Evansville’s budget for 2017.
“It’s very alarming,” says Council President, Missy Mosby of the impending decision.
City Council is potentially on the brink of blowing up its budget, thanks to the “astronomical” rising price of health insurance across the country, says Mosby.
Evansville wants to raise rates to save millions of dollars. If the judge rules in favor of workers, council will have to find a way to make up the difference – which could come close to layoffs.
“We’ll have to reduce services somewhere, it’s pretty simple,” says Finance Chair, Dan McGinn.
“If you declare an economic emergency, you can not fill those positions, and reduce the work force,” McGinn adds, but says he doesn’t anticipate anything so drastic.
If nothing else, the city says it may have to go back to the drawing board, at least in part. With a budget already set in stone, Council leaders say it would take some creative thinking to save millions.
That might include reduced city services or less overtime hours.
“It just got to where the city can’t foot all of that bill,” Mosby adds of rising costs, some of which were covered Monday night.
Almost $2 million in budgeted money was transferred between accounts. Council members say that was to pay for additional medical bills that weren’t planned for last year.
Just a small hurdle cleared, with the biggest to come Tuesday.
“We’ll figure it out,” McGinn says, “this is a bright group.”