County looks into medical coverage for retirees

By Becky Brewster

Culberson County Commissioners met in special session on August 24, 2020.

The Commissioners reviewed the actuarial study for providing medical insurance coverage for retirees. Deborah Falknor reviewed the options noting that the County was subject to the requirements of GASB 75 if they were to provide this coverage. GASB 75 came about after the Enron scandal in 2001 when the collapse of Enron caused employees to lose their guaranteed benefits. The primary objective of GASB 75 is to improve accounting and financial reporting by state and local governments for post-employment benefits other than pensions.

The option the County was looking at was to provide medical coverage for retirees that had been with the County at least 20 years or who had reached age 60 with at least 8 years of service. The coverage would last for 5 years or when the retiree reached age 65, whichever came first. The study highlighted the requirements for the County paying 50% or 100% of the premium. Based on the study, the County would have to set aside a liability amount of $640,977 for 100% premium coverage or $395,969 for 50% premium coverage. This is over and above the actual payments of the premiums for qualified employees which at current rates would amount to almost $7000 per retiree per year. Falknor noted that the predictions were based on national trends of 7.5% increase while the County’s actual history was a much lower percentage. At the Court’s direction, the study will be updated to include the County’s trends rather than the national trends. If the County decides to go forth with this benefit for retirees, it is obligating the County for years to come. If the County opts at a later date to end retiree health insurance coverage, it will only affect new hires after that decision. The County will still be obligated to fund the benefit for all employees who were on board prior to the date of the decision to end coverage.

Becky Brewster, TxCDBG grant administrator, reported that the bid deadline for the Culberson County Food Pantry is September 3, 2020. Brewster noted that the timeline is critical with the grant end date of October 31; an extension from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) will be required to be able to finish the project. The TDA contract amendment will require a public hearing which was set for Thursday, September 3, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.

The Court voted to initiate a tax increase proposal to consider the Voter Approval Tax Rate of $0.161306. This will trigger a public hearing requirement. It was noted that Senate Bill 2 requires that the tax rate be adopted within 7 days of the public hearing date. The public hearing was set for September 14, 2020.

The Court held a public hearing to discuss the proposed County budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021. County Auditor Mark Cabezuela presented a balanced budget for the Court to review incorporating budget requests from all County Departments. An extensive discussion was held on IT concerns focusing on the need to upgrade and separate the systems and to have dedicated maintenance by either a service contract or hiring an IT employee. Additional cost estimates will be provided to Cabezuela to see how it will impact the proposed budget.

In other County business, the Court also:

Continued the annual county fee charges for tag renewal for 2021.

Accepted a proposal and approved a contract with Marbek Services LLC for grant administration for the 2021-2022 TxCDBG program.

Approved a tax resale bid request submitted by the Culberson County Appraisal District.

Appointed Dr. David Cummings as the Local Health Authority for Culberson County.

Approved a ground lease agreement for a hangar at the airport with Lyle and Brenda Overhulser.

Tabled the proposal for JP#1 Improvements pending further clarification.