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|3/20/2013 ||Email this article Print this article |
|Conservation board discusses budget, health care law|
By Jeremy Huss
Clinton County Conservation Board (CCCB) director Walt Wickham had good news and bad news for board members at the monthly meeting Tuesday, March 12.
The good news was the budget approved by the Clinton County Board of Supervisors included a good portion of the increases requested by CCCB; the bad news was the negative impact the Affordable Care Act is likely to have on hiring seasonal park workers.
The budget includes additional funding for equipment purchases, the transfer of some personnel expenses from the Rock Creek Park budget to the general CCCB budget and funding for improvements to handicapped accessibility.
"Basically we got everything we asked for with a couple exceptions," Wickham said.
Wickham said the supervisors gave CCCB $90,000, half of what it requested, for new equipment purchases.
The board had planned to use the funding to purchase two skid loaders, a dump truck and a new mower. Wickham said he will talk with staff about how to best use the funds before moving forward with any purchases. CCCB probably will buy just one skid loader and look into options for a used dump truck, he said.
Wickham said he's also monitoring the current year budget in anticipation of the busy spring season, when CCCB will ramp up its expenses.
Overall, the budget is in good shape, Wickham said, but some line items, such as fuel, are overspent.
"We'll just have to watch that close and ensure we get through the end of the (fiscal) year," he said.
Health care impacts seasonal hires
Insurance requirements under the Affordable Care Act will present some problems for seasonal workers when the provisions take effect in 2014, Wickham reported.
The law will require CCCB to provide health insurance for seasonal employees who work for more than four months unless they work less than 30 hours per week, he said.
Board member Gloria Friederichsen asked if hiring through a temp agency would allow CCCB to get around the insurance requirement.
Wickham said the county human resources department is still looking into that question, but one solution may be to hire two employees at less than 30 hours and stagger the workers' schedules.
The health care requirements won't impact college students since they work less than four months, but CCCB has several seasonal workers who are retirees that typically work longer than the fourth-month limit under the health care law.
Wickham said the law requires CCCB to provide insurance even if a seasonal employee already has their own insurance, including Medicare.
In those scenarios, the county's health plan would be the primary provider, and the other insurance company would be a secondary provider, Wickham said.
To avoid the requirement, CCCB either will have to limit employee hours or lose its most experienced seasonal workers, he stated.
"You're losing a lot of experience just to a government wrinkle," board member Jim Haring commented.
"I understand it's to cover people's insurance, but it makes no sense we have to provide it to someone who already has it," Wickham said.
Friederichsen said it's unfortunate CCCB may have to limit employee hours to less than 30 per week when they're used to working full time during the camping season.
"It's not fun, but it's something we have to deal with," Wickham said.
In other business:
The board approved the certificate of final completion and acceptance of the eco center construction project. The acceptance was needed in order to release the final retainage of $38,000 from an Iowa Department of Transportation scenic byways grant.
The board tabled action on the CCCB director salary in order to clarify information on raises given to other county department heads.
Natural resources technician Darin Voss reported he has been working in the shop to prepare equipment for spring, hanging wood duck boxes at parks and verifying forest reserve applications for the county assessor.
Education coordinator Mark Roberts reported a March 9 workshop on wildlife photography at the eco center was a success and drew more than 150 attendees.
Roberts also presented new brochures for the eco center and T-shirts that have been printed for sale at Rock Creek Park and Eden Valley Refuge.
Haring reported the conservation foundation is working on a donor recognition board and is pricing outdoor lighting for the eco center.
Board members noted a whitetail workshop will be held at the eco center April 6 and will include an antler show and antler scoring, local taxidermists and seminars on deer led by state environemental experts.
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