County Commissioners Present: Bob Workman, Common Chair; Bernie Heier, Larry Hudkins and Linda Steinman
City Council Members Present: Jon Camp, Common Vice Chair; Coleen Seng, Cindy Johnson, Annette McRoy, and Jeff Fortenberry
Others Present: Mayor Don Wesely, Jennifer Brinkman and Ann Harrell, Mayor's Office; Kerry Eagan, County Chief Administrative Officer; David Johnson, Deputy County Attorney; Georgia Glass and Bill Kostner, Personnel; Kathleen Sellman, Planning Department; Dean Settle, Community Mental Health Center; and Cori Beattie, County Board Secretary
The meeting was called to order at 8:15 a.m., by Common Chair, Bob Workman.
Approval of the minutes was postponed until a quorum of the Common was present.
JOINT CITY-COUNTY HEALTH INSURANCE RISK POOL
This item was also postponed pending the arrival of Gina Samland of Marsh, Inc., due to inclement weather.
CONSOLIDATION OF CITY AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT
David Johnson distributed a written overview of legislative documents relating to consolidation of counties and cities (copy on file). He stated that some time ago, the County Commissioners requested an opinion from the County Attorney regarding such consolidation. The handout provides an idea of how the Legislature began the process, how the framework was outlined and how a more specific structure of a municipal county is being defined. He added that none of the Legislative Bills (LB) have been designated a priority.
In regard to a municipal county, there are legitimate concerns about increased taxation. Mr. Johnson noted that people in Lancaster County seem to migrate to rural communities to get away from government and taxes, while those in Douglas County are moving to subdivisions outside of the City and are seeking expanded services to those areas. These people generally are not concerned about the increase in taxes associated with expanded services, as long as the services are provided to them. Thus, consolidation may be more geared toward Douglas County. It was noted that Omaha Mayor, Hal Daub, is a proponent of consolidation legislation and did address the Legislature about the issue.
Mr. Johnson said Legislative Resolution (LR) 45 CA permits the Legislature to provide for the merger or consolidation of counties or other local governments. It would go to a vote of those individuals outside of the municipality, along with those inside the boundaries of the city. This legislation was passed in 1998. A study was also authorized and is currently in progress.
LB 87 passed in 1999. The Joint Public Agency Act is an amendment to the original bill and separates the bill from the Interlocal Cooperation Act. It allows for taxation, the local option wheel, occupation or sales tax and also has a cap not to exceed 1.5%. This requires approval of those outside the city to be affected by the tax. Mr. Johnson noted that the County does not currently have the ability to get occupation tax in regard to the wireless ordinance. If a Joint Public Agency is formed, it can oversee all telecommunications and would then have the ability to charge an occupation tax. An Interlocal Agreement would not allow for taxation. He felt that the citizenry wouldn't necessarily have a problem with this because it would be less of a burden, would ensure that roads are in good condition and revenue could be generated in a different area than in the past.
Annette McRoy arrived at 8:20 a.m.
Mr. Johnson commented that while LB 104 was killed, it may return. It did provide for the home rule charter, whereas, a charter convention is created based upon the fact that the City Council and County Board draft resolutions to move forward with pursuing a municipal county or the citizenry files a petition addressing the same. The charter convention would outline the general structure for a municipal county which would then go to a vote of the people. Hudkins questioned whether the provisions of LB 104 did or did not provide for separate votes of city and county or if it's simply 10% of registered voters as a whole. Eagan clarified that the constitutional amendment provides that there must be a vote of separate entities. The 10% would reflect the number required to place the item on the ballot.
In looking at LB 803, the basic difference is that the municipal county would have all powers of the largest county and city involved. The issue may also be placed by petition of 10% of the total vote case for Governor at the last election. This bill is still in Committee and will not go anywhere for quite some time.
Jon Camp arrived at 8:25 a.m.
LB 1191 is where things become more specific. It notes that at the next statewide primary or general election, 15 freeholders who have been registered voters of the county for at least five years will be elected. This will form the convention which will frame the political structure. The bill further notes that approval of the governmental structure abolishes all county and municipal offices at the end of the office holder's term unless otherwise provided in the governance structure. To simplify, Mr. Johnson said there would be a "Super Board" and all other positions would go along the wayside unless specifically allowed. Another interesting point related to this legislation is that debt will remain the responsibility of the SID, county or city which incurred it.
Mayor Wesely arrived at 8:27 a.m.
LB 1255 permits one or more counties and at least one of the municipalities in each county to create a municipal county to carry out all county and all services. It also notes that a municipality which has not merged and is within the county will be required to pay for the services that were previously provided by the county. Levy authority of other entities is also provided. In addition, this legislation addresses such things as the number of council members, whether they will be elected by district or at-large and whether an elected sheriff or assessor is to be retained.
LB 1254 is pretty much the same as LB 1255 except it levies up to $0.75 per $100 of taxable value where LB 1255 was up to $1.00 per $100 of taxable value.
Mr. Johnson stated that LB 1292 comes up with the idea of an inter-jurisdictional planning commission in municipal county mergers. One of the following would need to occur: passage of the joint resolution previously mentioned OR the filing of a petition signed by registered voters. Members of the nine-member commission would be appointed by the respective governing bodies. He added that it's likely not much will be done this year with regard to consolidation legislation but the City and County need to keep ahead of the issue so when called upon by the Legislature in the future, input can be readily available.
Eagan added that LB 803 is intended to be the master plan for the framework of all consolidation bills. If anything does come from the Legislature, pieces of the other bills will probably be merged into LB 803. He agreed that the bill will not be going anywhere this year.
Jeff Fortenberry and Linda Steinman arrived at 8:30 a.m.
Workman distributed copies of a memo from the Nebraska Commission on Local Government Innovation and Restructuring (copy on file) regarding a website survey about Nebraska's State History.
Hudkins moved for approval of the minutes from the January 28, 2000 City-County Common meeting; seconded by Seng. Roll call vote. Ayes: Hudkins, Workman, Steinman, Seng, Johnson, McRoy, Fortenberry, Wesely, Camp. Nays: None. Motion passed 9-0. (Heier abstained from voting.)
JOINT CITY-COUNTY HEALTH INSURANCE RISK POOL
Glass said she could briefly address this issue, although, a more in-depth presentation will be scheduled with the consultants at a later date. Marsh, Inc., was asked to provide pros and cons of merging the City and County in terms of one risk pool for the purposes of writing an insurance policy. Glass noted the following demographics:
Glass noted that because the City and County are two separate, political entities, an Interlocal Agreement would be required to group the two pools together since it's likely that no insurance company will write one policy for the two entities. She added that, unfortunately, both risk pools are not doing very well. At renewal time, the City's 1999 claim versus premium ratio was 114%; the County's was 137%. However, most insurance companies will take into consideration the increased number of premiums if the two pools combine.
In 1999, the City had nine catastrophic claims (those which have generated more than $50,000 in claims), while the County had eleven. The City has 1,905 enrolled employees; the County has 864 enrolled employees.
Glass said Marsh, Inc., indicated that combining the two risk pools would likely stabilize premium increases. She added that all things considered, the City and County health plans are quite similar. The City does have a benefits committee which reviews insurance plan changes. In the near future, it may be ideal to have some type of joint management team between the City and County for this purpose. Glass mentioned that the City is 100% experience rated which means the insurance company is only looking at the experience of City employees in setting premiums. Since the County is a smaller body, it is 80% experience rated (80% of the premium decision is reviewing actual County claims) and 20% is community rated (reviewing other entities which the company insures). If combined, the City and County would be 100% experience rated based on both previous histories.
Glass stated that the City and County should continue to discuss a possible merger of risk pools. Camp inquired if there is comparable data from other cities throughout the country. Kostner said data of this type is not currently available. Marsh, Inc., could forward it to the City and County in the future. Eagan said similar point-of-service plans would have to be considered as to reflect a true comparison.
In regard to the bid process, Workman asked if Marsh, Inc., will be providing the cost difference with and without consolidation. Glass stated that those responding to the RFP are to consider various plans (HMO, PPO, etc.) and also a combined risk pool. Camp inquired if the City was looking at other options. Glass said the City Council will be approving a resolution next Tuesday asking for approval to hire Marsh, Inc., to provide a joint RFP with the County for such services. Workman noted that when the County approved the RFP, additional quotes for alternate deductibles were included for informational purposes.
JOINT BENEFITS IN THE CONTEXT OF GOVERNMENTAL CONSOLIDATION
Glass distributed a handout regarding benefits comparison between the City and County (copy on file). A committee, made up of herself, Steve Hubka, Dave Kroeker, Bill Kostner, Bill Thoreson, Kerry Eagan, Diane Staab and Don Taute, has been discussing benefits. She noted that while the two entities are really not that far apart, the City's pension plan has a 2 to 1 match; the County's match is 1.5 to 1. She did note that a meeting was recently held with Ameritas to discuss some possible changes to the City's pension plan. Unfortunately, since this is work-in-progress, she was not able to further elaborate at this time.
She pointed out that while the City offers a sick leave payout upon retirement or death of an employee, the County offers a 50% sick leave payout upon separation after 15 years of employment with the County.
Currently, new City and County employees must wait six months before having access to the employer's health insurance contribution. After this "probationary period", the City pays 100% of a single premium. The split for 2/4 and family premiums is 27% - employee; 73% - employer. The County pays 91% of a single premium with a 25% - employee and 75% - employer split for 2/4 and family premiums. Glass stated that there is a lot of interest in changing the six-month waiting period with regard to health insurance.
In regard to pension, Workman said that while the City offers a 2 to 1 match, the County's plan is pre-tax dollars versus the City's post-tax dollars. He felt this difference brings the actual amount of compensation between the two plans closer together. Eagan said there are definitely advantages to both plans. The County's vesting period is 100% after seven years, starting with 20% after three years. The City has a ten- year vesting period with partial vesting beginning after five years. Fortenberry questioned why the City has a post-tax contribution for employees. Glass said this is one area of the City's pension plan being discussed with Ameritas. Camp said the City should consider switching to pre-tax pension deductions as it seems to be a greater benefit for employees. Eagan noted that there is also a FICA savings when pension dollars are deducted pre-tax. Mayor Wesely said there is a need for employee benefit changes and it seems now is a good time for the City and County to get in sync regarding the many aspects.
STEVENS CREEK STUDY
Sellman stated that a new planner has been hired to take on Stevens Creek. He should be on staff by March 9th. Heier said he requested this item on the agenda and would not have done so had he read the minutes of the last meeting prior to today. As a follow-up, he added that he'd like to see the Common briefed on Stevens Creek every two or three months. Seng also noted that the City Council was asked to keep the status of Wilderness Park on the front burner. It should be routinely discussed at Common meetings. Sellman said the Planning Department could do this. Heier noted that both of these issues could be brought up every month; Workman said that would be a good idea. He added that it may also be a good idea to discuss the beltway on a monthly basis. Sellman said Planning will be at the point within the next several months where new information regarding the beltway will be available and, at that time, it will be presented to the Common.
Fortenberry brought before the Common the idea of more representatives from the environmental community being active in the Wilderness Park issue. He added that the County's Ecological Advisory Committee may be a place to look, as to not duplicate an effort already in place. Mayor Wesely stated that he's been reviewing the environmental input role to include meshing the County's Ecological Advisory Committee with the City before interjecting into the comprehensive planning process - which would include Stevens Creek, Wilderness Park, etc. There is also a need for specific input on Stevens Creek and many citizens have expressed a desire to him to be part of a related advisory group. Names of citizens interested in sharing their environmental expertise or in working with the Stevens Creek issue should be forwarded to Kathleen Sellman. Steinman said an ad hoc committee may be desirable to study different parts of the community and to offer a "heads up" before the fact. Cindy Johnson stressed that with an issue as important as Stevens Creek, an effort should be made to include builders and Realtors on any related committees. Mayor Wesely added that in considering Stevens Creek, he envisioned a comprehensive umbrella group which would provide input to the Planning Department and also consider the environmental issue, since it's so critical at this time. He mentioned that two entities may be necessary, each with a distinct focus.
In reference to the beltway, Camp said a number of people have suggested running the east and south beltways together. Others feel that the two should be split so that the south beltway can proceed. He questioned the current status. Mayor Wesely said he spoke with Congressman Bereuter during his last trip to Washington, D.C. Bereuter indicated that if the time comes and the east beltway bogs down, it may be necessary to split the project and move ahead on the south beltway. Mayor Wesely felt that this decision may be somewhat premature as reports still need to be reviewed and routes defined. He added that when the environmental impact statements are received and if controversy exists with the east beltway, the south beltway should quickly move forward as work continues on the east. If there is a consensus with the environmental impact statements, the entire project could then move forward.
Workman commented that he spoke with Jim Linderholm, of HWS Consulting, last week. Linderholm indicated that if the situation arises where a separation of the east and south beltways is necessary, there may be a problem with federal funding. Mayor Wesely agreed that this is a concern and a decision should not be made until more information is known.
No further comments were offered under old business.
Workman said he received a memo from Kit Boesch asking the Common to consider holding the budget hearing for the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) on June 16 instead of July due to funding deadlines of July 1st. He noted the County Board did not have a problem with the change. Seng added that this was discussed at the last JBC meeting. There was consensus to move the JBC budget hearing to the June 16 Common meeting. Beattie indicated that she would relay this change to City Finance.
Hudkins asked the body to consider changing the Common meeting time to 8:30 a.m., instead of 8:00 a.m. He said there is so much competition with traffic at 8:00 a.m., and wondered if anyone else would be receptive to a change. Seng agreed that a start time of 8:30 a.m., or even 7:30 a.m., would be easier than 8:00 a.m. Steinman inquired if this change would pose a problem for those with regular jobs. Cindy Johnson indicated the earlier the better for her, but she can adapt to the majority's vote. Fortenberry agreed. When asked if 7:30 a.m., would be better, Johnson noted that it really doesn't help to move the time up when other's cannot arrive until 8:00 a.m. Fortenberry said it's important to him to compact the meeting so issues move along rapidly and can be completed by 9:15 a.m.
Hudkins moved to change the Common meeting time to 8:30 a.m.; seconded by Seng.
Steinman said there could be a compromise, similar to the County Board staff meeting, whereas the starting time for the Common meeting is 8:15 a.m.
Steinman amended the motion to move the Common meeting time to 8:15 a.m.; seconded by Hudkins. Roll call vote. Ayes: Wesely, Fortenberry, Camp, Seng, Johnson, McRoy, Steinman, Hudkins, Workman and Heier. Nays: None. The amendment passed 10-0.
Workman then asked for a vote on the motion. Roll call vote. Ayes: Hudkins, Workman, Steinman, Johnson, McRoy, Fortenberry and Wesely. Nays: Heier, Seng and Camp. Motion passed 7-3.
Future City-County Common meetings will begin at 8:15 a.m., unless otherwise scheduled.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 9:10 a.m.
Cori R. Beattie County Board Secretary