Tooele County Commissioners approved a revised retirement benefit plan Tuesday night after facing an angry crowd of current and former county employees two weeks ago that assailed a proposal to eliminate post-retirement insurance.
“We heard the concerns that were expressed in resounding numbers at our last meeting,” said Commissioner Shawn Milne. “And in spite of what we felt at that time as having done our homework, we have adjusted the position that we had at our last meeting.”
The new post-retirement insurance plan makes no changes to the benefits for employees already retired or that retire before July 1, 2013.
Currently, employees that retire receive one year of free health insurance for every five years of work. After the credits for free years are used, retirees pay 50 percent of their insurance cost.
The original proposed retirement plan would have left retired employees that had used up their free years with no insurance.
Retired employees with unused credit for free years would have had to pay $115 for their remaining years of credit for free insurance under the original proposed changes.
Employees that retire after July 1 would have lost all post-retirement insurance under the first proposed revision of post-retirement benefits.
Under the plan approved Tuesday night, the earning of free insurance credits will end after July 1, 2013.
However, employees that retire after July 1, 2013 that have worked for Tooele County for at least 10 years before July 1, 2013 will be paid $5,000 for their two years of free insurance credit plus an additional $500 for each year of service in the county beyond 10 years.
Future retirees with less than 10 years of service before July 1, 2013 will receive no post-retirement insurance benefit.
Commissioners made changes to their original proposal after consulting with their insurance representative and staff from the Utah Public Employee Association.
“We appreciate the opportunity for dialogue that has been afforded and appreciate the changes that have been made,” said Christy Cushing, UPEA employee relations coordinator at Tuesday’s meeting. “We believe that while they are not perfect, they address many of the legal concerns and both the needs and goals of the employees and the county. We look forward to a continuing dialogue.”
Several people at the meeting took time during the open comment period to thank the commissioners for the changes.
“Thank you for restoring the benefits earned by these retirees while they worked for you,” said Jerry Edwards, an advocate for senior citizens that lives in Grantsville.
The audience gave a loud applause following the comments of Wayne Anderton, who has worked for 16 years in the county’s road department.
“It is my hope that the county’s changes to post-retirement medical benefits will help me as an employee, a taxpayer, and a father to feel more secure in the future and for the financial stability of the county,” he said. “As the county finances improve, we expect the sacrifice of employees will be remembered.”
Post-retirement insurance benefits cost the county $219,000 annually. The new benefit plan will reduce that amount and also lower an unfunded accrued liability for post-retirement benefits estimated by actuarial accountants to be as much as $9.8 million.