County leaders consider cutting employee benefits to save money
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Macon-Bibb County Commissioners say they’re in a much better place this year than last year when it comes to finances, but some residents say it still isn’t enough.
Local business owners who are members of the BOLD organization say after the mil increase commissioners passed in August, many of Macon-Bibb’s middle and lower class residents were hurt the most.
“This isn’t a black and white issue. It’s a haves and have not’s issue,” said resident Blake Sullivan.
Since the FY19 budget passed in August, he says Macon-Bibb’s poorest residents are beginning to feel the burden.
“Commissioners and mayor have raised our budget roughly six mills. It’s putting so much stress on many of our citizens in the county–particularly our middle class and the poor people who live here,” Sullivan told 41NBC.
He and other local businessmen went before commissioners on Tuesday to discuss recommendations on where they can save more money.
“3,500 Macon-Bibb employees and retirees dictate what’s going on for the other 150,000 people that live in the county. We need to find some more balance,” he explained.
They discussed changes in both retirement and health care plans for employees as major points of potential savings.
“One of the problems that we’ve had are in our benefits package. We pay the majority of the health insurance for our employees and our retired people. No other county around here pays the level that we do.”
County leaders say they’ve already got a plan of their own to work toward saving money.
“Over the last six months to a year, the county has been making several changes to the way we do business. We’ve adjusted our health care plan and our pension costs,” said Watkins.
Virgil Watkins says the commission is considering some of the other recommendations but the county’s financial advisor, Matthew Arrington, says reversing the years of functioning in debt could take some time.
“Most of those recommendations that our firm has made, as the county’s financial advisor, we made those back in January at the county’s retreat, a lot of those we won’t begin seeing the fruits of those until January 1,” Arrington said.
The current pension plan for county employees requires the county to pay 17% of payroll or about 12 million dollars a year, while the new 401K plan will only require the county to match employees anywhere from 4% to 6 % of their pay.
The new 401K plan is also voluntary so it would be up to county employees to decide if they want it. The current pension plan is given to every employee. County leaders say they’re trying to take a proactive approach to cutting costs.