Township Saves Big on Insurance

Wheeling Township saved about $59,000 in 2012 by eliminating its health care provider and instead reimbursing two employees for the cost of their outside insurance premiums, township trustees have learned.

Cost reducing measures became necessary in Wheeling Township last year as trustees faced the payback of a $180,000 loan on their township building over the next 20 years, as well as expected cuts in local government funds by Ohio officials. Also, severe storms in September 2004 and January 2005 cost the township over $300,000 in recovery costs, according to information compiled by Township Fiscal Officer Mike Butler.

This year, the township’s carryover was about $90,000, according to Trustee Christopher Walisiak. He credited the change in health care benefits funding and a large estate tax windfall for the financial upswing.

Wheeling Township has a budget of $239,000, and about 1,400 residents, he said. Wheeling Township covers an area north of St. Clairsville, including the community of Fairpoint.

Trustees Bill Androsko, Stanley Pempek and Walisiak opted early in 2013 to eliminate health insurance benefits for themselves and two township employees who received them, Walisiak explained. Health insurance premiums had cost the township about $80,000 in 2011, he said.

The trustees told the employees they would reimburse them for the cost of the health care coverage they obtained from an outside provider. The township paid them a total of $21,000 toward their health care coverage, resulting in a savings of about $59,000.

“I never expected the savings to happen this fast,” said Walisiak, currently an accounting major at Ohio University Eastern. “Usually, it takes a long amount of time to realize a high amount of savings.”

“The decisions we made have made us more fiscally sound for future generations – and the taxpayers are saving $59,000.”

Wheeling Township is one of seven townships among 16 in Belmont County that reimburses its employees for health insurance costs, according to Walisiak. The others are Union, Colerain, Kirkwood, Warren, Wayne and Pease townships.

Six other townships continue to offer traditional health care benefits -Flushing, Mead, Pultney, Smith, Washington and Richland townships. Goshen, Somerset and York townships do not offer health care benefits.

Wheeling Township also benefited greatly in 2012 from a $170,000 estate tax dividend from the estate of Stella Miric, Walisiak continued.

The money was put toward paying off the loan debt on the Wheeling Township building, and now loan payments won’t have to be made in the coming years.

But neither Wheeling Township nor any other municipalities in Ohio will see estate tax windfalls in the future as the state’s estate tax was eliminated in Ohio beginning on Jan. 1.