The city currently faces a liability of $2.2 million for providing health insurance for its retirees. At the workshop, the commissioners and City Manager Kenny Smith discussed how best to reduce the liability.
“This is a very distressing and painful cut we’ll have to make,” Griffin Mayor Dick Morrow said in a later interview. “We’re trying to make it as retiree-friendly as possible.”
He said even a greatly reduced package of post-employment medical benefits is better than no such benefits at all, which is the growing trend among corporations and municipalities. He said in the past, these benefits were promised without any plan to pay for them - the assumption was taxes would pay for them when the time came.
After much discussion, the final proposal was that the city would contribute $200 per month to the city’s health insurance plan for a retired employee older than 65 and $400 per month if the employee has a spouse. For employees older than 65, the city will contribute $100 per month to a single employee’s Medicare Advantage plan and $200 to the spouse’s Medicare Advantage.
Commissioner Bill Landrum insisted earlier in the meeting that the city continue paying the post-employment benefits for employees who retired before July 2007 because the city promised to do so. He expressed some concerns about the older retirees.
“I’m looking at those who retired 25 years ago,” he said. “They can’t afford this.”
Morrow said it is not a matter of fairness - it is a matter of what the city can afford to pay. Landrum later expressed his agreement with the $100/$200 package.
Commissioner Cynthia Reid Ward asked if any of the spouses of retirees under 65 are still working. Morrow said many spouses who work rely on the city’s insurance, which is more generous than the insurance provided by other employers. He said if the city program is altered, many of them will fall back on their employer’s insurance program.
Frank Strickland, chief of the Griffin Police Department, said he does not think many people will retire soon anyway with the economy being like it is. Furthermore, if the city cuts post-employment medical benefits, he expects city employees will delay retirement. He cited the case of Cobb County, where several employees set to retire changed their minds when their post-employment medical benefits were cut.
Another study will be commissioned to see if the compromise plan is viable.