Montcalm County Board of Commissioners vote to eliminate health insurance, reduce salary

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 12:31 pm on Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Board of Commissioners Budget Hit

The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners makes up a small percentage of the overall Montcalm County general fund budget:
• 2006: 0.99 percent
• 2007: 1.13 percent
• 2008: 1.27 percent
• 2009: 1.35 percent
• 2010: 1.36 percent
• 2011: 1.24 percent


STANTON — The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners voted to eliminate their own health insurance and reduce a salary Monday — but not without internal disagreement.

The board voted 5-4 to eliminate their own health insurance or any payment in lieu of health insurance starting in January 2013. Commissioners Ron Baker of Howard City, Roger Caris of Vestaburg, Patrick Q. Carr of Lakeview and Ron Retzloff of Crystal cast the four “no” votes.

Lloyd Walker

Commissioner Lloyd Walker of Greenville originated the motion to eliminate health insurance, saying it would save the county a total of $42,761. He said it’s time commissioners “bite the bullet.”

“The rules we work under ought to be the same for county employees, and county part-time employees do not qualify for health insurance,” Walker said. “I know some of you do spend full-time on the job, but I don’t think our constituents elected us thinking we were going to take a full-time job here. My guess is if you would take a survey of your constituents, you would not find hardly anyone who would say you were entitled to full health insurance benefits.”

Commissioner John Johansen of Greenville said eliminating health insurance will impact each commissioner by $2,400. The board then voted 7-2 to increase their annual salary by $1,000 to help deal with the loss of health insurance.  Carr and Walker cast the two “no” votes.

Commissioner Ron Retzloff of Crystal brought up the issue of Caris’ salary. Caris earns $9,581 as chairman of the Finance & Personnel Committee, as does Carr as chairman of the Board of Commissioners. The other commissioners earn $8,331 annually.

Retzloff said Caris’ higher salary was warranted at one time, but Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer now handles many of the finance and personnel duties instead.

Caris made the motion to reduce his own salary. The board voted 7-2 to reduce his salary by $1,250 starting in January 2013, bringing his salary in line with other commissioners. Carr and Walker cast the two “no” votes.

Carr protested that his own salary should be reduced by $1,250 as well, despite his chairman duties.

“I know that we’re talking about positions and not people and I’m speaking from my own perspective, but I don’t believe that if I’m the chairman I can take in good conscience an additional $1,250 if the finance chairman isn’t,” Carr said.

His colleagues begged to differ.

“I think you’re called upon on many, many issues,” Johansen said. “You are the person Chris (Hyzer) goes to frequently to address many issues. You are the fallback. You are in charge of emergency management and many other issues.”

“The chairman of the board does have many extra duties and is contacted and has to sign many papers and do things between meetings that the rest of us don’t have to do,” Retzloff agreed. “I believe that calls for a compensation difference.”

During public comment, Gisela Peek of Greenville expressed delight at the budget cuts.

“I’m very surprised,” she said. “I didn’t think it could happen that commissioners could vote to eliminate their health care to save the county some money. Mr. Caris, I’m very impressed that you would also cut back on your compensation. Mr Carr, I do think that you do more and that you should keep it.

“I would like to congratulate all the commissioners for being good stewards with the taxpayers’ money,” she said.

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