SALINE COUNTY -- Saline County Board members voted unanimously to finalize plans to go forward with a new self-insured employee insurance plan after having unclear portions of the contract clarified.
The county's new plan as presented originally would have seen the county pay less than the old contract between what it paid in premiums and what it put back in an account to pay claims. However, final numbers originally looked to exceed the old contract. The premium would have remained at about $33,000 per month, but the county would have put another $57,000 into the account slated for payment of claims. In addition, certain contract language raised questions about who would be eligible for the insurance and who would make those determinations.
Saline County Board Chairman Jay Williams said a representative from the new company agreed to clearer language in the contract and made recommendations to lower the amount put into savings to $37,000 per month. The outlay will be $70,000 monthly.
The county had called an emergency meeting two days earlier, Dec. 17, because the revised cost of the new employee insurance plan would have meant a significant number of layoffs would have to be made to balance the county's budget. The overall cost would have meant a budget deficit of about $400,000, Williams said.
After getting the clarifications, Williams said board members voted unanimously to proceed with the plan. But, agreed upon changes will have to appear in the new contract before he signs it, he said.
As another safeguard for county employees, money previously unavailable is being made accessible, he said. The county's Harco Road Fund was money paid by Amax Coal Co. with the intention of rebuilding Harco Road after it was altered in the 1980s for the mining company. However, because the number of people living on the road grew to a handful, the county opted to put the money into a fund managed by the Road and Bridge Committee to be used only for road and bridge improvements.
The Road and Bridge Committee, though, agreed to loan the county's General Fund $200,000 to help meet expenses.
"This loan will probably help quite a bit," Williams said. "Hopefully, if we do have to lay people off, it will be 3 or 4 or 5 instead of a whole lot more. We don't want to lay anyone off."
Also at the meeting, board members voted to tax any future sales of recreational cannabis at 3 percent. Any new tax revenue will be beneficial, Williams said. Recreational cannabis sales will be legal in Illinois as of Jan. 1, 2020.