Hours cut for part-time employees
by Jennifer Cohron
Jun 17, 2014 | 2835 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Walker County Commission voted Monday to reduce the schedule for part-time, seasonal and temporary employees from 32 to 29 hours per week to avoid paying health insurance costs now required by the Affordable Care Act.

Approximately 40 employees will be affected by the change, which goes into effect July 1.

County attorney Eddie Jackson explained that under the ACA, the county is required to provide health insurance to anyone who works more than 29 hours.

“The Civil Service Board rules suggest that the part-time cutoff is 32 hours. I have suggested that we notify all department heads that we are going to change our definition to be less than 29 hours,” Jackson said.

County officials estimated that the annual cost of including the employees in a health insurance plan would have been approximately $340,000, or $8,500 per employee.

“I think the quote from Miss Pelosi is when we know what’s in it (the ACA), we’ll like it. Well, so far, I don’t,” Commission chairman Billy Luster said.

Commissioners Keith Davis and Steven Aderholt said cutting hours was not an ideal solution.

“We just don’t have the extra $340,000 that is being demanded of us by this Obamacare mandate. This is the only option we have. I personally hate it because the majority of my workforce is part-time. Now they are going to be going without pay for those three hours a week,” Davis said.

Aderholt clarified that no employees will lose their health insurance because of the change.

“We’re not taking away health care from full-time employees. We’re taking away gas money from part-time employees that they could have gotten in those three hours a week. That’s what Obamacare is doing for us at this point,” Aderholt said.

In other action, the commission:

•declined to pay more than $9,000 in legal fees that Probate Judge Rick Allison incurred after filing a lawsuit against the county in Walker County Circuit Court over election notices.

Circuit Judge Hoyt Elliott ruled that the county commission, not Allison, should determine which newspaper publishes the notices. Allison signed a contract with Corridor Messenger owner Ken Guin in March.

The commission awarded the notices to the Daily Mountain Eagle in May.

“Some of the things that Rick Allison has done, he hasn’t done intentionally to divide this commission. He’s just always done it. When you do a job as many years as he’s been doing it, unless somebody says something’s wrong, it just keeps getting done. I think it was a big misunderstanding, and I’d vote to pay for it,” said District 2 Commissioner Dan Wright.

Wright made a motion to pay the fees, but it died for lack of a second.

The commission also declined to pay more than $29,000 to the Corridor Messenger for election notices that were published while the lawsuit was pending.

The commission sent a letter to Guin on April 10 stating that the county would not pay for any advertising regarding voter information until further notice.

The same day as Elliott’s ruling, the Messenger published the Qualified Voters List for a stated fee of $29,325.

Jackson said the bill is now closer to $30,000 because of interest that has been attached to the bill.

“If you determine that you are not going to pay that fee, I will write Mr. Guin’s newspaper and advise them that consistent with what we previously told them and consistent with the court order, it wasn’t our obligation,” Jackson said.

No motion to pay the bill was made.

•declined to approve travel expenses for revenue auditor Susan Russell and District 2 Commissioner Dan Wright to attend the annual convention of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama in Orange Beach in August.

Commissioners voted June 5 to require all travel requests for commissioners, engineers, administrators and staff to come before the board for approval.

Travel was not listed on the original agenda. Shortly after the meeting began, Luster asked for Russell’s travel request to be added to the agenda.

Wright then noted that he and Luster will be receiving certificates at the conference for completing the Commissioner Graduate Program through the Alabama Local Government Training Institute.

After Davis recommended voting on the three travel requests individually instead of with one motion, Luster said he will be paying for his own expenses if he attends.

The issue died when no motion was made to add the travel requests for Russell and Wright.