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CNA editorial: Who benefits? Not the taxpayer

Published: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 9:21 a.m. CDT

Our local county employees are looking for a total of a 5 percent increase in pay this coming year. That is 3 percent more than where most of the world is wage-wise, at this point in history.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor stats, the labor market in the USA has only been averaging a little less than 2 percent increase per year since the 2008 recession. We have good county employees and the majority are more than fairly compensated above the prevailing wage in the county.

The other part of the story is our local county employees also get a “Cadillac” health-care plan, for which most of them do not have to pay any premiums. Your property taxes pay for almost $1 million of health care for about 60 employees — while the average American is paying 40 to 50 percent of their health care insurance.

The county health care plan will be up about 8 percent this next year, which means the taxpayers will pick up another $80,000 in the 2014-15 budget.

Our supervisors have said in the past they intend to have the county employees help pay for some of their own health insurance. So when do we start? What about starting by letting the county employees pick up the 8 percent. That would be a good start.

City of Creston employees pay 10 percent of their health insurance — which is at least something.

The taxpayer is also on the hook for IPERs — the retirement fund. Last year, the fund was requesting $100 million from the state to help “shore it up.” The fund would need $5.8 billion to be fully funded.

In the past three years, it has gone from 81 percent funded to 79 percent funded. Anything under 80 percent needs help.

It’s time to get rid of this outdated, prescription-for-disaster pension system. The problem is, as soon as you elect someone, they are part of the “dole.”

Several states have now switched to 401K plans, and several others are considering the situation. The day of defined benefits is well past, as many cities, counties and states are finding out.

Union County is still in the top three for property taxes in Iowa — which ranks fourth for highest property taxes in the country. The supervisors have been paying down debt, which is good, but the one thing a lot of people don’t realize is you are also getting fewer services, like fewer road repairs.

The money spent on roads was down considerably this year, and unless some kind of bonding (more debt) is done, the roads will only get worse as time goes on.

One of the reasons is the county administrative budgets keep going up much faster than the rate of inflation. In a day when most companies and businesses are doing more with less, our county sure hasn’t adopted that philosophy.

Many of our public entities have not figured out the current economic environment. It is a lot easier to ask for more tax money than to make the hard cuts that many businesses have had to endure.

Maybe it is time for some realism to set in with our elected officials.

The majority of working employees “have skin in the game” and are partially responsible for their health insurance and pensions. It’s time for the public employees to be responsible for some of their benefits like the majority of private-sector employees.

At the current rate, Union County taxpayers will continue to see more taxes and fewer services unless some innovation takes place.

Nobody said it will be easy.

But, we need to start trying to consolidate some departments and services on the public side of things before we all run out of money!

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