By Dave Fidlin
Members of the Town of Waterford Sanitary District (WSD) board continued to tweak employee benefit plans last week by making a switch in life insurance carriers.
Commissioners voted 2-1 Feb. 14 to switch employee coverage from United Healthcare to the state-funded Wisconsin Public Employers’ Group Life Insurance Program.
“I have talked to the state, and they are willing to allow us to get into (the plan) in April,” board president Dan Dickinson said.
The change in insurance carriers takes effect April 1 and comes on the heels of a 2013 budget, adopted in December, that offers a contrast to budgets of years past.
The 2013 budget includes sharp cuts in employee insurance and retirement costs – two contentious issues involved in an August 2012 recall election in which Dickinson replaced Bill Gerard as WSD board president.
As a participant in the state’s program, WSD will contribute payment for the first $15,000 of each employee’s life insurance premium. If an employee decides to pay a higher premium for a higher benefit, he or she has the option to do so.
Commissioners wrangled over some of the finer points in the new plan at their monthly meeting, held Feb. 16.
In the state plan, once an employee retires from the District, he or she remains privy to life insurance contributions, so long as WSD remains a participant.
If, at any time, WSD withdraws from the state program, retirees will no longer receive contributions on behalf of WSD.
Dickinson said funding retirees’ life insurance benefits would be covered through a portion of the existing monthly premiums paid to the state on behalf of WSD and current employees.
“I emphasize that this is a group-based plan – not an employee-based one,” Dickinson said.
Commissioner Ricky McNeiley was the sole dissenter of moving forward with the switch to the state plan. When asked to explain by the other board members, McNeiley did not go into great detail about his decision.
“We don’t have to agree on everything,” McNeiley said. “We can agree to disagree.”
Afterward, McNeiley explained he has an issue with giving people whose employment has ended the option of continuing to pay for their state life insurance benefit, and then requiring the former employer (WSD) to contribute a small percentage toward that cost.
Not a lot of money is involved, McNeiley said, but he prefers not to have that kind of post-employment option available.
Cost-wise, “either plan over the years is about even,” McNeiley added.
The Sanitary District currently has three full-time employees, all of whom would be privy to the life insurance benefit plan.
Other recent changes that have been made to WSD employees’ benefit packages include a reduction in their retirement benefits when compared to past years.
In the past, two WSD employees received $22,000 annually, while a third earned $16,500 in WSD-paid retirement fund contributions, with no employee contribution needed.
In 2013, the benefit plan is changed, and WSD now matches any employee retirement contributions of only up to 4.5 percent of gross pay.
Editor Patricia Bogumil contributed to this story.