The possibility of the county’s health insurance coverage being made available to members of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors has become a leading issue in this year’s young political campaign.
Two candidates seeking their party’s nomination to run in November have stated they oppose the idea, one going so far as to say the insurance coverage would be “free” to the board.
John Travis, a candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for supervisor in the Massie District, stated in a press release announcing his campaign that he is “for the budget that is in effect with the exception of the Board of Supervisors voting to give themselves free health insurance at the taxpayers’ expense.”
Travis continued saying the health insurance benefit could cost “between $8,000 to $20,000 per supervisor per year.”
“That equates to $40,000 to $100,000 per year,” Travis continued.
He said he believes that money could be spent in the “education areas to benefit the entire county, such as the ACCE Program.”
Travis is opposed for the GOP nomination in Massie by incumbent Supervisor Andy McCready, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
Another incumbent Republican Supervisor, Joe Guthrie in Cloyd District, has also stated his opposition to the idea of making health insurance available to board members.
In his election announcement, Guthrie said the board had been asked to consider adding health insurance benefits for the board that will begin in 2020.
“This would at least double or even more than triple the amount supervisors are currently compensated and could cost over $100,000 per year,” Guthrie said. “I am opposed to that.”
Guthrie continued that supervisors’ work on the board is part-time and volunteer.
“We receive a modest but adequate stipend,” Guthrie said. “Supervisors have other employment that can provide their health insurance. I would rather see that money go to other work in the county. I will vote against the health insurance compensation if it is proposed, and I will refuse to accept it if it is available and I am re-elected.”
Guthrie is being challenged for the GOP’s Cloyd District nomination by Thomas Holsinger.
At last week’s joint meeting of the School Board and Board of Supervisors, incumbent Robinson District Supervisor Charles Bopp issued a statement to the media addressing the insurance issue.
Bopp, who currently is unopposed for the Republican nomination, says in his statement that “it is being inaccurately stated that the Board of Supervisors is going to get free health insurance and that it is included in our budget at the tune of $100,000.”
“I want to set the record straight,” Bopp said, “And let everyone know that the Board of Supervisors has not taken any action on this matter.”
Bopp continued, “Furthermore, and discussions of health insurance for future board members would be free at all. There is no such thing as free county health insurance, employees have to pay their share to enjoy the benefit, and if it were ever offered to future board members, they would have to pay also.”
Bopp said the board had not put in $100,000 in its draft county budget for health insurance for future board members.
“There is only around $23,000 in the budget draft as a simple place-holder. The $100,000 some misguided individuals are referencing is actually in the draft budget and is what this board has placed in there for access to community college education,” Bopp stated.
Bopp said anyone stating anything different is “wrong and not telling the truth.”
“They should stop misleading our fellow citizens and take an equal amount of time and effort to correct these inaccurate facts that they have previously shared,” Bopp said.
“And one more thing,” Bopp continued. “I’m 66 years old and on a Medicare supplement. I wouldn’t even consider taking this benefit if it were ever offered to board members in the future.”
For his part, McCready said any health care coverage – if it becomes available – wouldn’t be available to the current board and would only be available starting with the board that is elected in November which would take office in January 2020.
McCready said if health insurance is made available, a board member would have to elect to participate just like any other county employee.
“And it wouldn’t be free. If a board member elected to participate, they would pay the same rate as any other employee,” McCready said.
McCready said no decision has been made by the board about health insurance coverage for future boards.
He noted that Pulaski County ranks around 45th in the Commonwealth in compensation for supervisors and noted that Floyd County is one of several localities already offering health insurance to board members.
By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot