By Kevin Kelley
A proposed ordinance now being considered by City Council would limit most part-time municipal employees to no more than 25 hours per week.
The reason? The federal Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to either pay a fine or provide health insurance to employees working 30 hours or more a week.
Mayor Dennis Clough and council members set the limit at 25 rather than 29 because of concerns that the 30-hour trigger may be lowered.
The mayor and council members hammered out details of the proposed ordinance at a May 29 meeting of council’s Planning, Zoning and Legislation Committee. The proposed law, known as Ordinance 2013-33, may be up for a final vote at Thursday’s City Council meeting.
Currently the city has two classifications of part-time workers, Level I and Level II. Level II workers, employees who work only a few hours a week or over the summer, would be limited to 20 hours per week under the proposal. None currently work that may hours a week, according to Jazmyn Stover, the city’s human resources manager. Currently, 90 employees are classified as part-time II. However, 78 of those work in the Recreation Department and may be reclassified as seasonal employees, as they are hired only for the summer, Stover said. The Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare, does not require employers to provide health insurance to seasonal workers.
Level I part-time employees, unlike Level II part-timers, receive sick leave and vacation pay on a pro-rated basis. Ward 2 Councilman Jim Connole noted that the ordinance under consideration was originally developed to better define which part-time workers get which benefits and only later had to deal with the regulations of the Affordable Care Act.
So, how many workers will have their hours reduced by the proposed ordinance, which is expected to pass?
In 2013, 23 part-time Level I employees are averaging more than 25 hours per week, Stover told West Life. But many of those exceed the proposed 25-hour limit by less than two hours, she added.
It should be noted that, outside of the law department, no part-time municipal employees have been given health insurance benefits. So, no employees will lose health care benefits, but a few may have their hours reduced.
Law Director John Wheeler and City Council recently agreed that part-time assistant law directors will not receive health benefits in the future in order for the city to have a consistent policy across all departments.
Clough has said he does not intend to replace full-time employees with part-time ones, and will seek to hire full-time employees when it makes sense.
The city currently provides health insurance to 220 employees. In 2013, the cost to the city for providing these benefits was $3,091,450, Stover said. The city currently pays 93 percent of health insurance costs for family coverage and 90 percent for employee and employee plus one coverage, she said.
Based on 2012 figures, it would cost the city $1,169 each month, or $14,028 per year, to provide health insurance to each new employee, Stover said.