Osceola Board considers adding health insurance to commissioner benefits | News


REED CITY — Budget discussions for the 2023 fiscal year have been well under way in Osceola County, and the Board of Commissioners touched on their own benefits at Tuesdays meeting.

County Coordinator Tim Ladd spent some time crunching numbers and collecting info from surrounding counties on their commissioners’ benefits packages, and he suggested a salary increase for the board.


As of right now, the budget for commissioner salaries is set at $70,740. Ladd proposed boosting that number to $79,860, which would vary depending on the number of meetings they attend. When divided amongst each commissioner, the budget would allow for a yearly salary of $7,200. Board chairman would receive an additional $2,700.

For every Board of Commissioners meeting attended, the commissioners would receive $70, and any non-board meetings would pay $50. Conferences would pay $100 per day of attendance.

Aside from a slightly higher salary, Ladd said he noticed that most surrounding counties also provide health insurance for its commissioners, and he believes Osceola’s commissioners should be given the same benefit.

“Some folks may say, well, commissioners are part-time, they shouldn’t receive health insurance, because they’re part-time employees of the county, but that’s not true,” Ladd said. “Commissioners are low-paid, full-time salaried positions.”

To what degree the inclusion of health insurance will impact the budget can’t be accurately measured until it’s known how many commissioners will be taking advantage of the plan.

Following Ladd’s breakdown of the proposed benefit budget, Commissioner Timothy Michell chimed in to state his support for both the salary increase and meeting compensation, but said he took issue with the addition of health insurance.

“If we had a board where every person was a full family, our health insurance, dental, is going to be over $20,000 a package,” he said. “We’re looking at a possibility of $140,000, and once we implement it, I don’t see it going back.”

Michell continued by reiterating that the commissioners are public servants, and for every budget expansion they make, the county residents are the ones who have to pay. He asked that the board reconsider the inclusion of health insurance coverage.

Board Chairman Mark Gregory suggested that the board revisit the budget discussion at its next meeting and take the two weeks in between to gather their thoughts on the topic. For the time being, he said Ladd should use his proposed benefit numbers to continue work on the 2023 budget.

In the meeting’s second public comment period, County Treasurer Tonia Hartline approached the board to second Michell’s health insurance concerns. She said for as long as she’s been working in the treasurer’s office, the county has had a budget deficit, save for the two years’ worth of financial assistance due to COVID-19.

“The potential costs for health insurance for seven employees is $172,000,” she said. “So once you set that precedent, remember that it’s the next board that would get that funding as well, not just this board.”

Hartline then made reference to the counties Ladd reached out to in his commissioner benefits research — Newaygo, Lake and Mecosta — and said it’s important to note that those communities have a much larger population than Osceola County.

“If you compare our county to some of the larger counties, we just can’t do the things that larger counties can do because we don’t have the money,” she said.

Hartline closed her comments by encouraging the board to consider the imbalance health insurance coverage might add to future budgets.

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