Comp board takes pay and levy action under advisement

County commissioners held a public hearing to take comments on the recommendation for the pay schedule of elected officials on Wednesday.
Commission Chairwoman Cynthia Johnson noted the county comp board had issued a recommendation to pay a cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment to the elected officials of up to 2.5 percent as well as a payment of $2,000 each to the Clerk and Recorder and Treasurer as allowed by Montana law.
Among the commissioners, Joe Christiaens, Sandy Broesder and Johnson, of granting the COLA recommendation and increasing the county portion of the employees group health insurance premiums.
Christiaens stated his preference was for the COLA increase rather than an increase in the county contribution benefit.
Cheryl Gresczyk, a county employee, commented that not all employees are on the group health insurance plan so an increase only to the county contribution would not affect all employees.
She also wanted to know if any COLA would be retro-active to July 1 if action is not finalized until after the July payroll.
Commissioner Broesder stated  that would be considered and answered when a decision was made.
Christiaens moved to take the matter under advisement until after the budget worksheets are in and the commissioners have had the opportunity to review budgets with the department heads.
On a second by Broesder, the motion to take matter under advisement passed, 3-0.
The public hearing was closed and returned to their regular meeting.
The commissioners moved on five abatements, one on heavy equipment that had a value incorrectly given, another for a penalty error, and the third for property audit. The sums of 756.41, $48.48 and $2,131.70 respectively were cancelled.
Added on were two new bills, one for $1,003.39 and one for $1,560.47.
An amendment to the WIC subcontractor agreement was approved, amending the compensation awarded through the end date of June 30 to $15,416.48. County Health Nurse Cynthia Grubb said she is working on line items for a resolution amending the budget change.
A right-of-way forage removal agreement was approved with Ray Nicklaus for the north and south sides of Truck Butte Road from Bullhead Road to Sunshine Road.
Four task orders were approved by the commissioners as well.
All were with the Department of Public Health and Human Services.
One was an immunization program grant award for which the county will receive $1,958 for FY2012-13 for immunization services.
The second was for the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program for which the county will receive $15,000.
Another was for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Training. The county will receive $36,783 for health emergency preparedness and training.
And the other is for maternal and child health services that covers a seven year period, from July 1, through June 30, 2019.
The county will receive $7,958 for the fiscal year for those services.
A request from McDonald Heating and Cooling to approve an encroachment agreement on Prairie View Road for placement of a six inch wide trench, four foot deep to install a new geothermal system was OK’d.
Wednesday evening there was a second public hearing to take comment on a proposed permissive levy to fund a possible increase in the county’s contribution toward employees’ health insurance premiums.
A permissive levy for this single purpose is allowed under Montana statute and is not voted on as are other levy requests.
Presently, the county pays $300 toward a full-time employee’s health insurance premium and the employee pays the remainder.
The total premium for employee coverage will be $450.42 beginning July 1 and the permissive levy is proposed as a means to fund an additional amount up to $150.42 of the portion paid by the county.
Commissioner Johnson noted that the county is considering this levy because increasing the county portion of the health insurance does not have incidental impacts of a wage increase such as payroll taxes or retirement contributions.
The anticipated cost to the taxpayer having a residence with a market value of $100,000 would be $6.54, for a house with a market value of $200,00 the increase would be $13.08 and for a residence with a value of $50,000 it would $3.27.
No one at the public hearing commented against the levy, however, commissioners did receive one phone call.
The individuals commented that when looked at with the passage of voted levies this levy would not be the only one out there and even though each is only a few dollars those few dollars add up. The called asked, “When this will all end.”
The commissioners are anticipating the county may lose skilled employees should an oil and gas activity develop in the county.
The county would like to bring the county contribution to health insurance premium and/or wages more into line with other counties in the area.
The county would like to keep employees and this levy would  move the county closer to that end.
Commissioner Christiaens commented that he would like to see a compromise with a bit of a cost-of-living increase in wages and a bit of additional funds paid toward the employees’ health insurance premium.
Commissioner Broesder echoed that sentiment and then moved to take the matter under the advisement. The motion passed on a 3-0 vote.
The county commissioners meet every Wednesday at 10 a.m. in their office to conduct county business.
The public is always welcome and encouraged to attend and see their government at work.