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Insurance rates drastically rise for county employees

Like the rest of the nation, Jeff Davis County is experiencing sticker shock when it comes to shopping for health insurance. During the past two board meetings, supervisors have heard presentations from several insurance benefit companies that specialize in offering insurance to counties. A wide spectrum of options have been considered, as rates on the current Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) county plan will increase by 45 percent in the coming year. The county currently pays $393.47 per employee with BCBS.

The board voted to stick with the same company they have used for several years, Danny Wilkes & Associates, but changed insurers moving to United Healthcare. With United, the monthly cost of insurance for an employee will be $488.52.

In other board proceedings…

•  Thomas Brewer, County Agent with MS State Extension office, introduced LaTonya Ramsey as Jeff Davis County 4-H and Family Consumer Sciences Agent.

•   Justice Court Clerk Judy Cole made her annual end-of-year report for Justice Court. Cole explained to the board the reason more monies have not been collected is current economic factors but equally as important is the lack of a Highway Patrolman in the county. “Only three tickets were issued about a month ago,” said Cole. “The Highway Patrol is short-handed since so many officers have retired or moved up the ladder.” For the fiscal year ending September 30, $142,906 was paid to the county in fines collected. A portion of each ticket paid goes to the state; that amount for the year was $128,366. Those who are on a payment plan with fines are indebted to the department for $77,190. Total monies on the books is $1,250,246.

• County engineer Les Dungan requested the board vote on a joint letter of acceptance on closing out the completed project on state aid road Crossroads Church Road. Several directional signs that had been rented for the construction project have gone missing from the area. Supervisors had at a previous meeting commented on metal signs being stolen.

Dungan commented that re-stripping on several roads in the county was occurring and that raised pavement marks and reflectors are being placed in key areas to ensure safety.

Dungan reported site improvements are the Foley Products Company were going well with the pavement project to be completed within three days. No additional funds will be required to add necessary sub-surface drainage in the rear of the building.

•   County attorney Wes Daughdrill reported the response to the voter information update cards are in the process of going out and the return response is good. Cards were mailed following a lawsuit by the American Civil Rights Union and as laid out by the resultant consent decree. The board approved payment of $7,500 in attorney fees associated with the suit.

•   Daughdrill along with Tax Assessor and Collector Sue Shivers Worthy discussed how property taxes are assessed for Section 42 low-income and subsidized housing. A state law was passed, according to Daughdrill, outlining that all counties must tax Section 42 housing by the “income” approach, which brings in fewer dollars, versus the cost approach. Jeff Davis County has always taxed via the income approach, but a re-hearing on the law is being petitioned suggesting counties support the cost approach, which will bring in more tax dollars to the county. Daughdrill received permission from the board to submit a brief due on Nov. 7 in support of the cost approach to taxation on Section 42 housing.

•   Daughdrill commented that after Tuesday’s special election is concluded, redistricting of the county will be finalized.

•   According to Daughdrill, the IRS is targeting government workers who use company vehicles for personal use. “Driving home” in a vehicle is being considered as personal use by the IRS. Daughdrill suspects a portion of vehicle use deemed personal will be added as taxable income to each worker. Emergency personnel such as ambulance drivers, fire deparment, law enforcement and emergency management personnel are considered exempt. “Supervisors are not emergency personnel,” said Daughdrill quoting the opinion of the IRS.

Daughdrill summed up before the matter was tabled stating the board will need to adopt a policy for the matter.

The board voted to go into executive session to discuss the ongoing legal action against Lickety Split Caterers. No action was taken on the matter.