2012 county budget passes with modifications

Majority of supervisors call county course unsustainable for 2013

Money was not restored to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center or the Water Authority.

To cut costs, the board voted to defund vacant positions within the sheriff’s office, probation department, nursing home and public health nursing service, saving the county nearly $891,000. County officials were also instructed employees to reduce internal postage expenses by over $39,000 and communicate more through e-mail.

Additional funds were found by implementing a new health insurance system through Blue Shield. The county expects to save nearly $1.3 million on insurance premiums by self insuring. The county will now pay an administration fee to Blue Shield, but will use the $23.3 million it would have previously paid the company to pay the premiums itself. The funds saved equal the difference between expected claims by employees and the total rate that was usually pocketed by Blue Shield as profit.

According to Johnson, the county has additional insurance to pay for claims that exceed what was previously paid.

After public outcry at a meeting earlier in the month, plans were rejected to ask non-union employees and some managers to pay 15 percent toward their insurance premium. The final budget also restores retiree Medicaid Plan B payments the county was going to cut, after union officials threatened to sue the county. This added an additional $1.1 million to the budget.

Johnson, who is also chairman of the county Personnel Committee, said those items will be negotiated with the union to cut those costs in the future.

In the end, $7.2 million is planned to be taken out of the county’s fund balance to make up the difference for budget restorations and the dismissal of an increased sales tax, leaving only $5 million in the fund for next year.

Although 20 supervisors voted in favor of the budget, most said they realize the current process will be unsustainable going into 2013.

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