Despite medical insurance costs, Clinton County expenses stay flat in 2018 budget


By Gary Huffenberger - ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com



From left, Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods and Clinton County Commissioners President Kerry R. Steed prepare to vote on the county’s 2018 General Fund budget.


Gary Huffenberger | News Journal

WILMINGTON — Despite a marked increase in medical insurance, Clinton County’s General Fund budget approved Wednesday is the same as last year: $14.5 million.

The budget also contains a couple new ingredients that will please township trustees and the three historical societies in the county. A sum of $20,000 is set aside to assist townships with grant dollars they can apply for, while $1,000 is designated for each historical society.

The county budget also includes $35,000 to add and upgrade camping sites at the Clinton County Fairgrounds.

And each department received 3 percent more in appropriations for its salary line.

Clinton County commissioners commended department heads and elected officials for cutting their non-personnel costs as requested earlier this fall.

“Every elected official from sheriff to recorder brought some kind of cuts to the table,” said Clinton County Commissioners President Kerry R. Steed.

The total increase in health insurance, Steed said, is just under $200,000. That amounts to an increase in medical insurance costs of about 4.6 percent compared to last year, according to Steed.

After passing the budget, Steed said the county is in the midst of a transition regarding employees’ medical insurance. That unfortunately involves, he said, making some changes to coverage, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

During the budget process, the county also went from two health insurance plans to one.

Those are substantial changes to insurance, said Steed. To help ease in some of those changes, the county absorbed 100 percent of any increase employees otherwise would have seen in their premiums for 2018.

According to Steed, if a county employee has a worst-case scenario health year, their total out-of-pocket expenses will be somewhat more than previously.

The commissioner said one of the things commissioners struggled with is the insurance company was not liking the setup of multiple plans and the way they were structured, so commissioners felt it best to move in a different direction. It will take two or three years to get where things need to be on insurance, added Steed.

Regarding the increase in departments’ salary lines, the additional sum for the General Fund is just over $100,000, said Steed.

Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods said commissioners are still thinking about how best to approach the new township assistance funding. She said she spoke with the county engineer to see whether he might make the awarded grants a little more appealing by assisting with in-kind labor on projects such as a culvert, cleaning brush on the roadside, and so forth.

“Every little bit helps,” said Woods, whose idea it was to start a township grant process.

Clinton County Commissioner Patrick Haley said the 2018 budget was a challenge, citing the hike in medical insurance costs.

The looming increase in insurance expenditures is one of the reasons commissioners asked office-holders to cut 10 percent from their non-personnel expenses, said Haley.

“They responded; they made the necessary cuts; and as a result we’re able to present a budget with the same amount as last year,” he said.

The combined sheriff’s office and jail, with its 24/7 operations 365 days a year, has the largest departmental budget: $5.1 million.

There are three historical societies in Clinton County — Blanchester, Sabina, and the Clinton County History Center in Wilmington.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

From left, Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods and Clinton County Commissioners President Kerry R. Steed prepare to vote on the county’s 2018 General Fund budget.
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/12/web1_DSC_0451.jpgFrom left, Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods and Clinton County Commissioners President Kerry R. Steed prepare to vote on the county’s 2018 General Fund budget. Gary Huffenberger | News Journal

By Gary Huffenberger

ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com