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RACINE — Due to the proposed dramatic changes to the city’s employee health care plan, Racine’s water and wastewater utilities are moving toward breaking off of the city’s plan and keeping the 2019 healthcare options.

The utilities’ Finance and Personnel Committee met Tuesday afternoon, on the heels of a tense city Finance and Personnel Committee meeting on Monday to discuss the proposed changes.

The utilities are self-funded by ratepayers, so the city’s financial issues do not affect the utilities’ finances; also, the utility funds its own employees’ health care. The health care benefits are administered by a third party — in 2019 it was United Healthcare. The utility splitting off would mean it would have the same plan options for its employees and would remain administered by United.

General Manager Keith Haas told the committee that he spoke with The Horton Group, a health care consulting group working with the city, which suggested the utility could split off from the city and keep the 2019 health plans. The Horton Group told Haas it would not affect either the utilities’ or city’s bottom lines.

The Horton Group was also able to lower the utilities’ stop-loss premium from $210,000 to $50,000, saving the utilities money. Overall, Haas said, the utilities’ health care costs are not particularly high.

Keeping employees

The commissioners agreed that adopting the proposed health plan was unnecessary and would be detrimental to staffing. All three attending committee members expressed concern that the proposed changes could result in employees moving elsewhere.

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Commissioner Thomas Bunker pointed to all the development in the county, particularly around the Foxconn development, and said that any upheaval in benefits could result in the utilities struggling to find workers with the needed technical expertise.

“We’ve got competition for technical people that we didn’t have before,” said Bunker. “It’s going to get harder and harder to (fill those positions).”

The commissioners also decided not to follow the city’s proposal for changes to retiree benefits. Haas expressed concern, based on case law, that the proposed changes could result in litigation.

The final decision will be made by the full water and wastewater commissions at meetings tentatively scheduled for Monday, Sept. 23, due to a water conference in Chicago on their regularly scheduled meeting date. Those final meeting details have not yet been published.

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Reporter

Christina Lieffring covers the City of Racine and the City of Burlington and is a not-bad photographer. In her spare time she tries to keep her plants and guinea pigs alive and happy.

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