Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"Insurance Crisis in Huntington" Mayor Steve Williams Delivers State of the City Address

Huntington mayor Steve Williams said Tuesday that Huntington’s $2 million hole in the budget for the fiscal year 2017 comes from the city’s insurance line.

In his State of the City address Williams said, “Today our insurance costs are spiraling out of control. Insurance costs are the only expenditure that we seemingly have no solution to establish control.” The city will have to find its own solutions. Williams said that the state legislature will not be able to help Huntington fix this problem, due to the states own budget crisis.

After the speech Williams told reporters it could be between a $2-4 million hole in the budget. He said, “We right now are rebidding our insurance contracts, we are saying to the insurance carriers for property causality, worker’s compensation and our health benefit we do not want to see a vanilla run of the mill insurance program.”

Department budgets for the city are flat. Williams said all department heads know their budgets and must maintain their spending. Williams indicated insurance costs are hindering the city and pose significant problems in the upcoming years. He said, “Our projections indicate that our insurance costs could increase 40 percent in the next fiscal year.”

The mayor said in the coming weeks the city council and his administration will address the cost with the insurance line. Williams said, “We will continue negotiations with our three bargaining units and in turn, solicit bids from prospective insurers.” Fire, Police and Public works departments will be the first to feel the effects of the insurance crisis in the city if a solution is not met.

Williams also made note of the neighborhoods with vacant houses and crumbling sidewalks. The mayor said the city council and his administration have created a fund that will address these problem areas with the additional money from the user fee. Williams said, “The Unsafe Buildings Commission has identified 250 structures that need to be demolished.” As more are identified that number could reach up to 750 buildings total placed on the demolition list.

Williams said in his address that the city is combating the opiate epidemic in the city by using the $3 million in grant money to give assistance to the various agencies in the area that fight the opiate problem. Williams also said that the community revitalization plan will help transform the City of Huntington which is one of 15 finalists in the America’s Best Communities.

After the speech City Council Chairman Mark Bates alluded to the possible option problems with the insurance crisis for the city. He said “It was looked at before for the city to partner with the state, but as you know the state employee program is in trouble and underfunded.” The city council will have a scheduled revenue budget meeting Thursday and expenditure meeting Saturday.

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