Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Commissioners’ health benefits cost taxpayers $130,000 annually

Members of the Washington County Commission appear to be divided on whether they should be offered health benefits for their government service. And despite requests from some commissioners to have the issue analyzed, it has remained absent from any county agendas thus far.
At the Nov. 1 meeting of the county’s CIA committee — the committee charged with studying the issue — Commissioner Ken Lyon tried to eliminate health benefits for commissioners, but his motion to do so failed due to a lack of a second.
At the time, committee chairman Mark Ferguson said the issue was not scheduled to be addressed this month because the committee’s agenda was already too full. In the wake of Lyon’s failed motion, Ferguson emphasized the importance of studying what other counties do before making any decisions about what Washington County should do.
But it appears commissioners had already received a benefits study weeks before Ferguson’s comments at the CIA meeting.
A Commissioner Benefits Study compiled by Washington County Communications Director Jeff Keeling was sent out to all 25 county commissioners on Oct. 5 and later obtained by the Herald & Tribune. The study indicates the county spends more than $130,000 each year to provide health insurance to the 12 commissioners who currently elect to receive coverage.
According to a list previously obtained by the Herald & Tribune, county commissioners receiving those health benefits are: Ferguson, Doyle Cloyd, Sam Humphreys, Lee Chase, Richard Matherly, Gerald Sparks, Richard Shadden, Mark Larkey, Roger Nave, Evert Jarrett, David Shanks and Pat Wolfe.
Of the 12 commissioners, three receive benefits for just themselves, seven do so for themselves and their spouses, and three receive benefits for themselves and their families.
The county’s average cost per commissioner receiving coverage is more than $10,800 per year.
Keeling’s report also examines whether surrounding counties as well as counties similar in size provide their commissioners with health insurance. Of the eight counties studied, only two — Johnson and Montgomery — offer health benefits to commissioners.
“It is rare for commissioners to be offered insurance,” the report states. “The share of premium cost paid by the employee/commissioner is significantly higher in Johnson County, where only two commissioners participate, and is so high in Montgomery County that no commissioners participate.”
The other six counties included in the study were: Sullivan, Greene, Carter, Unicoi, Wilson and Blount.
The three-page report also provides facts and figures regarding commissioner stipends and retirement benefits.
According to the study, Washington County spends $112,500 each year to pay each of the 25 county commissioners $375 per month. The report indicates the monthly stipend is “close to the average salary of the counties surveyed.”
An estimated $11,900 is paid by the county for retirement benefits while the county incurs a cost of approximately $8,600 for commissioners’ Medicare and Social Security.
In all, the annual cost to county taxpayers for compensating commissioners is more than $263,000 each year.