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Bonuses could boost county coffers

State to vote May 29 on distribution


Lawrence County’s general fund could get a $275,000 bonus if the state bureau of workers’ compensation agrees to disburse a proposed dividend to public and private employers.

On May 29, the board of directors of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will vote on whether to issue a one-time dividend of $1 billion to employers. The surplus is the result of BWC’s net assets exceeding the funding ratio of assets to liabilities that the board established in 2008. That ratio is to be between 1.15 to 1.35 or for every dollar in liabilities the workers’ comp fund must have $1.15 to $1.35 in assets.

Right now the amount in the fund is at a ratio of 1.49. That excess is slated to be distributed to the public sector according to the formula of 56 percent of what employers were billed for their 2011 policy premium.

In 2011 Lawrence County paid $494,104 for its workers’ comp premium.

If the board approves turning that surplus into a dividend, employers could start getting checks in June.

If the money is received, then the Lawrence County Commissioners have the discretion to transfer it into whatever county fund they choose, from the general to capital improvement funds.

This potential bonus comes on top of a reduction in the county’s 2013 workers’ comp premium because of the increased efforts by the county to reduce the number of claims it has. The county will get an approximate reduction in its 2013 premium by $70,414 or $352,449 as its total premium.

In 2006 the county’s workers’ comp premium was $653,962.51. That initiated a concerted effort by County Administrator Tami Meade to reduce that charge.

The strategy included starting a safety group that would review accidents to see if changes could be made to prevent their happening again and transitional employment. That is where an employee on workers’ comp gets back to work sooner handling lighter duties, reducing the number of days of the claim.

If the reduction of claims continues, next year’s premium is expected to be $280,000.

“It’s great to have that returned to us,” Commission President Bill Pratt said about the proposed BWC dividend. “It is really because the whole program has been successful statewide. We want to compliment the governor for returning the dividend to the county. It shows the dedication from state leaders to work on our workers’ comp problems to make Ohio competitive with Indiana and West Virginia.

“That has been a big problem for Ohio. Employers would choose Indiana over Ohio and workers’ comp fees were part of that. This is leveling the playing field.”

Pratt would like to see the dividend split between the county’s capital improvements fund and the general fund. The portion going into the county’s capital improvement fund would pay for two cruisers for the sheriff’s office and possibly fund a lighting upgrade project for the county jail. That would eliminate the county’s need to borrow funds.

“We do have court-ordered budgets out there that are in need of funding,” Pratt said. “We need to look at those officeholders’ budgets and try to resolve those issues. We will hold off on the purchases until we know that money is coming. I would rather have that money in hand.”