With the rising costs of medical and dental insurance, John Daniels, human resource director for Price City, proposed an alternative for volunteer firefighters and their benefit plan at the city council meeting on May 25.
The current benefit policy is unclear when describing benefit eligibility for Price City workers.
In a memo sent to Price City mayor, Joe Piccolo, Daniels stated that the current policy is confusing and that as a result, Price city may have liability for benefits they haven't granted employees.
He also stated that with the rising costs of benefits, most other organizations either require a portion of the benefit cost to be paid by the employee or they provide no benefits at all. Price city currently pays the entire cost of the medical insurance for employees and dependents.
From 2004 to 2005, benefits such as medical and dental insurance cost Price City $972,000. For the 2005 to 2006 fiscal year the cost is projected to go up to $1,130,000.
Currently, insurance costs for the city are $961.90 a month per employee, while costs were $827.27 last year. The increase included a 17.14 percent increase for medical, a 2 percent increase for dental and a 4 percent increase in accidental death from the insurance provider.
When those benefits are added to the $50 monthly compensation volunteer fire fighters receive, the city pays out a total of $12,142.80 for each volunteer fire fighter in a year.
Daniels states in the memo that Fire Chief Kent Boyack agreed with his proposal that future volunteer firefighters be ineligible for benefits which would dramatically decrease costs for the city.
With the proposal to eliminate benefits, a recommendation was also made that the amount of cash compensation for firefighters be raised from $50 per month to $500 per month for firefighters, $550 for captains, and $600 for the Assistant Chief.
Boyack also recommended an extra pay increase of $200 a month for Lyle Bauer, Paul Bedont and Carey Seals, because one is a city employee already with insurance and the other two declined the insurance originally because they already have it with their current jobs.
Currently employed firefighters would have no changes in their benefits unless they wished to opt out of the insurance. This would mean that they would be eligible for the increased monthly compensation instead of receiving dental and medical benefits.
A majority of Price City Fire Department members felt Price City would still attract qualified and highly motivated firefighters if they pay the increased compensation.
One firefighter who attended the city council meeting said that with the average hours of training and calls compared to Sandy City in northern Utah, Price would be on about even on an hourly basis. He also stated that even though Sandy City is a larger area than Price, they pay the least amount of compensation for fire fighters on the Wasatch Front.
Another city mentioned to be similar to Price in size was Vernal, whose fire fighters receive $15 per call and $15 per training hour. If Vernal employees choose to purchase city insurance, they are required to pay 15 percent while the firefighters pay 25 percent of the cost.
Among other cities and towns with fire departments containing part-time employees in Utah, only Heber allowed for the purchase of insurance, which costs more than a $300 a month for the fire fighters.
At the council meeting, Daniel's recommended that the council make two motions. The first motion would be to prepare and adopt a resolution changing the current policies, making it clear that only full-time employees be eligible for insurance. Current employees would remain eligible.
The second motion would be to prepare a resolution establishing that part-time members of the Price Fire Department would receive $500 for firefighters, $550 for captains, and $600 for the Assistant Chief.
"The other element of my proposal, as you probably saw, is that amount wouldn't be subject to a cost of living or annual increase." said Daniels. "I have discussed this with the fire department."
He also added that the change would also be subject to an occasional review of compensation.
City council member, Mae Aguayo, made two motions and both passed unanimously.