Spring Garden Twp. keeps taxes flat, hikes employee health care costs
Non-union employees of Spring Garden Township will pay more of their health insurance premiums starting in 2021 as a cost-saving measure, thanks to a proposal the township's board of commissioners approved Tuesday.
The board voted 3-2 to increase employee contributions to 9% of the premium for both single people and families in 2021, up from 6%. This increase was an alternative to a much steeper one proposed by Commissioner Annette Clark.
"There's other ways we can bring this cost down, and I don't think the employees should bear the brunt of it," Commissioner David Detwiler said.
Commissioner Thomas Gwilt proposed the 3% increase.
Gwilt, Detwiler and board President Daniel Rooney voted for the increase. Clark and board Vice President John Luciani voted against it.
The amount the township will save by increasing employee contributions was not available Thursday or Monday. That's because township manager and treasurer Marcy L. Krum-Tinsley was out of the office.
Gwilt's plan would increase employee contributions to the health insurance premium by 3% each year for three years. In 2022, the employee contribution would increase to 12% for both single and family plans, and in 2023, it would increase to 15%.
Clark had initially proposed increasing 2021 employee contributions to 25% for a single person and 34% for a family, but on Tuesday she presented a plan to phase that increase in over a three-year period.
Her motion Tuesday was to increase employee contributions to 13% for a single person and 16% for a family in 2021, 19% for a single person and 25% for a family in 2022 and 25% for a single person and 34% for a family in 2023.
Lynette Eisenhuth, an administrative aide in the Spring Garden Township Police Department, told the board that Clark's proposed changes were radical and "very scary" for employees.
"I'm just pleading for you guys not to do anything drastic," she said.
Eisenhuth looked visibly relieved when Clark's motion failed, with Gwilt, Detwiler and Rooney voting against it, and only Clark and Luciani voting in favor.
Rooney said he didn't want to increase the employee contributions to the point that it would become more difficult to attract people to work at the township.
"I just don't want us to not be competitive with surrounding jurisdictions, where we get the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality of employees," Rooney said.
The purpose of the proposed increase was to help balance the budget and reduce the deficit, Clark said.
Municipalities across the county have struggled financially this year, with residents out of work because of COVID-19 and tax revenues down because people can't pay.
Clark, referring to her proposal, said tough times call for tough measures and that she hoped increasing the health care costs would prevent the township from having to cut jobs in the future.
At one point this year, Clark said, the township's projected deficit for 2021 was $1 million. As of Tuesday's vote, the township had whittled that number down to about $639,000.
The board voted 3-2 to adopt a 2021 budget of $9.28 million with projected revenues of $8.6 million.
Gwilt, Detwiler and Rooney voted for the budget, while Clark and Luciani voted against it.
The township will pull money from its reserve fund to make up the deficit, Krum-Tinsley said.
The exact amount left in the reserves was unavailable Wednesday, but Krum-Tinsley said at least six months of operating expenses must remain in the fund, per a board resolution.
The tax rate will remain at 3.876 mills. One mill is equal to 1/1000 of a dollar. For a property assessed at $100,000, the township tax bill will be $387.60. For a property assessed at $180,000, the tax bill will be $697.68.