Janesville City Council to discuss extending insurance
Janesville city employees might soon have access to domestic partner benefits. The proposal from city council members Yuri Rashkin and Sam Liebert would grant funeral leave rights and health care benefits to the domestic partners of city employees. Kyle Geissler reports.
JANESVILLE Two Janesville council members have asked the council to extend health and funeral benefits to the domestic partners of city employees.
No public hearing is scheduled as part of Monday's city council meeting, but residents can sign up and speak on any agenda item at the beginning of the 7 p.m. meeting in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.
Councilmen Sam Liebert and Yuri Rashkin proposed the resolution.
Susan Musick, human resources director, said it is difficult to predict the financial implications.
She cited the experiences of other public sector employers. Some said the cost to extend coverage to domestic partners was about 1 percent of the health plan cost, which for Janesville would be about $70,000 a year.
Musick cited other studies that urged caution because high-risk enrollees could result in increases of 3 to 5 percent if even 1 to 2 percent of employees choose domestic partner benefits. That could mean an increase of $210,000 to $350,000 for Janesville, Musick said.
The city won't know the costs until they occur, she said.
City Manager Eric Levitt recommends changes that have no financial impact, such as allowing up to three days of funeral leave for domestic partners.
Police, fire and transit unions would have to negotiate the change. Because of changes at the state level, a fourth union for public works employees will have little bargaining power when their contracts expire December 2012. The remaining city workers do not have unions.
"I cannot recommend extending health insurance benefits currently based on the fact that we are reviewing health insurance benefits, and other benefits may be impacted in 2013," Levitt wrote in a memo.
Most counties and cities do not offer domestic partner benefits unless they are part of the state health plan, Musick said.
"The city is not aware of any difficulties in recruiting because of the lack of domestic partner benefits," she said.
Domestic partners already get benefits under the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act, Musick said. Under the Wisconsin Retirement System, employees are allowed to buy life insurance coverage for domestic partners.
Russ Steeber, council president, said he might suggest the council discuss the issue during 2013 budget deliberations because it would have a budget impact.
Liebert said he's been working on the proposal for several months with staff, and he asked Rashkin to co-sponsor it.
Offering health insurance benefits to domestic partners is the right thing to do, he said.
More Wisconsin cities are considering adding the benefit, and it is a good tool to retain or attract employees.
"Domestic partnerships are becoming more widely accepted, and I think it is the ultimate recruitment tool," Liebert said. "It's just a matter of equality (and) fairness across the board."
IF YOU GO
The Janesville City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St. An informal listening session with council members is scheduled at 6 p.m.
Items on the agenda include:
-- Three public hearings connected with a development agreement to bring SHINE Medical Technologies to Janesville. The hearings involve annexation and a change of zoning of the property located at 4021 S. Highway 51 and an expansion of TIF 35.
-- A public hearing on an ordinance amending the city's alcohol regulations to allow liquor and beer sales to begin at 8 a.m. The ordinance mirrors a change in state law.
-- Action on a resolution authorizing the city to enter into a TIF agreement with SHINE Medical Technologies.
-- Action on a proposed resolution extending health care and related benefits to domestic partners of city employees.
-- Award of contracts for the Janesville Ice Arena renovation.
-- Action on a resolution to borrow money to buy turf equipment at Riverside and Blackhawk golf courses.
-- Review and approval of an economic development grant to Lyfe Lounge and Banquet at 18-24 River St.