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Commission approves health insurance for county workers

When trying to juggle budget requests, expenditures and employees’ needs, discount may well be the nicest word there is, at least one of the nicest.

The Lawrence County Commission Thursday approved the 2010 contract with United Health Care for health insurance for county employees.

This year’s $3.6 million premium is roughly $64,595 less than what the county paid this year. Why? The county is getting a discount.

United offered the county the same rate as it offered in 2009 but the commissioners indicated if necessary, they would take the UHC insurance on a month-to-month basis while they shopped around for a better rate.

United then came back with the 3 percent discount. It was good news for a county that has seen rates go in the opposite direction for a number of years.

“It’s been going up 4-6 percent every year and that’s close to a quarter of a million dollars (a year),” Commissioner Doug Malone said.

The discount actually amounted to approximately $112,000 but the $48,000 fee for insurance consultant, Eastwood and Associates of Chesapeake, is subtracted from that amount, leaving the $64,595.

The United proposal was recommended by the county employee insurance committee, something new for the county.

Earlier this year the commission asked officeholders to appoint an employee from their office to a committee that would take active part in the health insurance selection process.

Committee chairperson Shawn Spencer attended Thursday’s commission meeting.

“You gentlemen followed the recommendation and we appreciate it,” Spencer said.

A little more good news Friday came from Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham. In a first-ever move, the treasurer’s office last month sent out a third mailing of tax notices to property owners who had not paid their taxes for 2009.

Burcham said that third mailing garnered $244,913 which will be divided among the county’s seven public school districts as well as other county government agencies.

Also, the third mailing, Burcham said, brought more people in to make payments arrangements on their delinquent taxes.

“The number of parcels under contract doubled from 448 to 898,” Burcham said. “What this means is, a lot of people came into compliance and began making monthly payments. We have $532,000 under contract now.”

More people, he said, are also signing up to have their real estate taxes directly debited from their checking accounts.

Burcham said the 2010 first-half real estate tax bills will be in the mail the week after Christmas and the deadline for paying is the last Friday in February 2010.