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City traded worker pay raises for lower insurance costs

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news River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The 4-percent wage increases for 2009 that city workers got under a new three-year contract were a trade-off for concessions on health insurance coverage, according to City Administrator Devin Willi.

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The city will save approximately $70,000 when public works and clerical employees begin paying a portion of the premiums for their coverage in 2010, Willi said.

The contract calls for workers to pay $35 per month for a single plan and $75 per month for a family plan in 2010.

In 2011, the employees' share of premiums will increase to 8 percent.

"In the past, they have contributed a minimal amount," Willi said.

The City Council approved the new contracts with the Teamsters Union locals representing public works and clerical employees on Aug. 3.

The deals also give workers 2-percent raises at the start of 2010 and 2011, and 1-percent increases midway through each of those years.

The union local representing public works employees has 21 members. Twenty of them are full-time employees and one is a part-time worker.

The 2009 pay for public works employees ranges from $16.94 per hour for a part-time janitor to $24.45 per hour for the chief water plant operator.

The city also contributes to employees' Wisconsin Retirement System accounts. In 2009, those contributions equal 10.6 percent of earnings for most city workers. Police officers get 15 percent.

The retirement contributions for police officers are larger because their work is more hazardous and they can retire earlier.

Willi noted that almost half of the employees represented by the public works union are employed by the city's water utility (six full-time workers) or sewage department (four full-time workers). Their wages come from water and sewer fees, he pointed out, and not property tax revenue.

In 2009, wages for the 24 employees represented by the clerical workers union range from $10.76 per hour for a starting parking-meter monitor to $21.99 per hour for an administrative assistant with five or more years of experience.

The bargaining unit represents 14 full-time and 10 part-time workers at City Hall, the Hudson Area Joint Library, the police and fire departments and the municipal court.

New provider brought savings

Last year, city employees agreed to leave the state health insurance plan for a high-deductible plan provided by Preferred One.

The switch in providers will save the city just under $400,000 in 2009, according to Willi. He said the general-fund savings was just under $300,000.

Under the Preferred One plan, employees with single coverage have a $2,000 deductible, and family coverage comes with a $4,000 deductible.

The city puts $1,750 into health reimbursement accounts for workers with single coverage that they can use for paying their deductibles.

Employees with family coverage receive $3,500.

Workers can earn the full deductible amounts by not smoking, having an annual physical and completing an online health assessment.

Employees are charged co-pays for prescription drugs, but not for visits to the doctor or most other health care services.

There also are co-pays for durable items such as crutches and prosthetics.

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