LIMA — Kurt Neeper doesn’t begrudge city workers a pay raise. In fact, the 1st Ward councilman said he supports them. Despite that support, Neeper said he couldn’t support legislation giving members of one union a raise because of its insurance provisions.
Lima City Council voted 6 to 1 on Monday to approve the contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Neeper cast the lone dissenting vote and 6th Ward Councilor Derry Glenn abstained.
“I have no issue with raising wages. We’ve managed expenses tightly, the employees have done a great job of supporting us with that,” Neeper said. “When you look at the insurance plan this idea that we got 1 percent more of COBRA for employee contributions is minor when you consider that out-of-pocket maximums remain the same. Those out-of-pocket maximums are $200 and $400 for individual and families. There’s not a private company in this community that offers that rich of a plan.”
The contract, which was opened on an option for renegotiation of wages and health benefits, included a 1 percent pay raise for 2012 with a one-time payment of $750 and a 2 percent raise for 2013 with a one-time payment of $500. In exchange, AFSCME members agreed to the COBRA contribution increase.
Neeper said he couldn’t support it because the health plan is too rich. In addition to the low out-of-pocket maximums, Neeper said he wasn’t supportive of the prescription drug benefits, which included no cost for generic drugs and $15 for others.
“The plan is too rich. There is literally no incentive for employees as patients to manage and control their own health care costs. They are subject only to a rough fee per year. We will not see savings on our health insurance until we start to look more closely at the out-of-pocket maximums. We’re talking about 20 percent of the city’s budget is in health care. That’s where my philosophic difference is.
“I think it bears noting that the city’s administration, those who are negotiating the contract on behalf of the residents of the city of Lima, receive the same health insurance package that they negotiate with the city’s largest union, that being AFSCME. I think if that were not the case, we would start to see some more aggressive tactics by the administration negotiating this on those tenets.”
Lima Mayor David Berger said the contract is fair and the right decision for the city and its workers.
“I believe this being the third year of the contract with AFSCME this was a fair deal given the fact they got no raise two years ago and 1 percent last year,” Berger said. “This raise for this year really is not out of line. I think it’s fair to all parties.”