REED CITY – Budget discussions for the 2023 fiscal year are underway in Osceola County, and the Board of Commissioners touched on their benefits during Tuesday’s meeting.
County Executive Tim Ladd spent a lot of time crunching the numbers and gathering information from neighboring counties on their commissioner packages, and he proposed raising their salaries.
As of now, the Commissioner’s salary budget has been set at $70,740. Ladd proposed raising that figure to $79,860, which would change depending on the number of meetings he attends. When divided among each Commissioner, the budget allows for an annual salary of $7,200. The board chairman will receive an additional $2,700.
For each Board of Commissioners meeting attended, commissioners receive $70, and non-board meetings pay $50. Meetings can cost $100 per day of attendance.
Aside from the slightly higher pay, Ladd said he noticed that many surrounding counties also offer health insurance to their commissioners, and he believes the Osceola commissioners should be offered the same benefit.
“Some people might say, commissioners are part-time, they shouldn’t get health insurance, because they’re part-time government employees, but that’s not true,” Ladd said. “Commissions are paid in small amounts, they are paid regularly.”
How the inclusion of health insurance will affect the budget cannot be accurately assessed until it is known how many commissioners are using the system.
Following the passage of Ladd’s budget proposal for benefits, Commissioner Timothy Michell responded that he would support raising wages and compensation, but said he was opposed to expanding health insurance.
“If we had a group where each person had an entire family, our health insurance, dental, would be over $20,000 a package,” he said. “We’re looking at the potential of $140,000, and once we use it, I don’t see it coming back.”
Michell went on to say that the commissioners are public servants, and for every budget increase they make, the residents of the districts are the ones who have to pay. He requested that the board reconsider the inclusion of health insurance.
Board Chairman Mark Gregory suggested that the board discuss the budget again at the next meeting and take the intervening two weeks to gather their thoughts on the topic. In the meantime, he said Ladd should use the numbers he wants to continue working on the 2023 budget.
During the second public comment period, County Treasurer Tonia Hartline joined the board to discuss Michell’s second insurance policy. He said that for the entire time he has been working in the treasurer’s office, the district has had a budget problem, except for two years of financial aid due to COVID-19.
“The cost of health insurance for seven employees is $172,000,” he said. “So once you create that model, remember that it’s the next group that can get the money, not just the board.”
Hartline then described the counties Ladd covered in his benefits study — Newaygo, Lake and Mecosta — and said it’s important to note that those counties have more people than Osceola County.
“If you compare our region with other large regions, we cannot do things that the central government can do because we do not have the money,” he said.
Hartline closed his remarks by urging the board to consider the health insurance imbalances it could add to future budgets.