STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS
BURNET — Burnet City Council members tried balancing benefits promised to retired employees with the costs of those benefits in a workshop and the following regular meeting Sept. 11.
At issue were health insurance benefits paid to retired city employees who have gone on to be employed elsewhere. A proposal to remove that coverage was met with an outcry from those affected.
The city currently has 23 retirees receiving post-retirement insurance benefits with 34 current employees who could be eligible should they retire. The city estimates six to eight retirees have insurance available to them through their current employer.
On Sept. 11, the city discussed two options at its workshop. Option A would require eligible retirees to “enroll in their current employer’s group health and/or dental insurance plan.”
Option B would pay up to 25 percent of the eligible retiree’s premium not covered by the current employer.
Mayor Crista Bromley said that specific benefit costs the city $30,000-$40,000 total for retired employees currently employed elsewhere.
At the end of a nearly 35-minute workshop, Bromley summed up the purpose of the council’s discussions.
“The purpose of talking this is to see if we can extend (this benefit) as long as possible,” she said. “Or else, we wouldn’t be discussing it.”
When the item came up during the council meeting, Option B passed by a 5-0 vote. Two council members, Danny Lester and Joyce Laudenschlager, abstained from discussion and voting due to the city’s code of ethics.
“Any current employee, or city official (in this case, retired employees), who could be, or are, eligible for the retirement benefit should abstain from participating in the decision making process under the city’s ethics ordinance,” wrote Burnet City Manager David Vaughn.
The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Sept. 25 during the council’s next regular meeting.
Also at the meeting, City Council adopted its fiscal year 2018-19 budget and tax rate.
The budget is up 3.36 percent in the general fund from last year. The council kept the same tax rate, $0.6237, which raised $199,730 more from property taxes due to increased property values in the city.
Vaughn highlighted a number of items included in the upcoming budget.
Among them are two additional street department employees to be added mid-year; one additional parks employee added mid-year; additional part-time positions in the fire department; more funding to increase salaries in the police department and paramedics in the fire department to better recruit and retain employees; and establishing equipment reserves for each major fund to help with future equipment replacement.
The budget also includes funding for the city’s proposed $5.2 million police station to be built on U.S. 281 next to the fire station.
Vaughn said the price should be received from the contract in early 2019 with construction to begin in mid- to late spring.
The budget can be viewed beginning on page 16 of the city’s agenda packet from the Sept. 11 meeting.