Macon County tightens retirement benefits
In its quest to cut the fat ahead of the looming county revaluation, Macon County is turning to its retirement policies. Commissioners recently voted unanimously on a pair of personnel policy changes that will tighten up post-retirement health benefits for county employees.
The first change took away continued health benefits for employees who retire with 15 or 25 years’ worth of service, extending the benefit only to employees who retire after 30 years with Macon County. The revision also removed health benefits for the spouses of 30-year retirees and included a provision that benefits would not kick in for employees who left Macon County for a different fulltime job, if the employer participates in the state’s local government retirement plan.
“You can’t spend more than you’re taking in anything,” Commission Chairman Kevin Corbin said, “and we need to make some changes going down the road.”
Currently, the county provides health insurance to 46 retirees and six spouses at an annual cost of $302,640.
“That number is only going to increase as we have more employees retire who meet the qualifications to continue as a member of the group,” Mike Decker, the county’s human resources director, wrote in a letter to the board.
The new policy will kick in on July 1, with all employees hired before that date still falling under the old policy.
Commissioners also voted to add a phrase to the resignation policy stipulating that employees who leave without giving a full two-weeks notice forfeit their longevity pay, as well as forgoing their vacation compensation, as already outlined in the policy. Longevity pay is an annual payment given to recognize continuous service.
Though Jackson County does not provide longevity pay, employees do get vacation compensation when they leave, regardless of notice. Haywood County does not give former employees their longevity pay if they are not employed on the day when the sum is to be paid, and employees who leave without notice don’t get vacation compensation.
Both these nearby counties are a bit looser with their retirement health benefits than Macon County is under its new policy, however. Haywood County, for example, allows its employees to retire with health benefits at 15, 20 or 30 years, depending on the employee’s age, but dependents can remain on the employee’s health insurance only until the employee turns 65, with the retiree paying the dependent’s coverage premium.
In Jackson County, employees must be at least 60 years old with 20 years of service, have put in 30 years regardless of age or have worked there 15 years and qualify for disability retirement coverage to retire with health benefits. Slightly different benchmarks apply to law enforcement employees. Dependents are covered too, if the retiree pays their premium to the county in full, and the dependents can keep paying if they want to extend their coverage after the retiree’s death. In both Haywood and Jackson counties, employment elsewhere doesn’t affect retirement coverage.
Commissioners favored the new policy, though, as a way to cut costs while still providing coverage.
“You’re still going to provide people with coverage over 65,” Corbin said, “but you’re going to save the county thousands of dollars.”