Cutting Costs In Steubenville

With expenses outpacing revenue this year and a $1.2 million budget gap looming for next year, Steubenville officials have no option but to cut spending. One method of doing so, revealed this week, will be unpopular among municipal employees.

Beginning Sept. 1, city workers will pay more for health insurance, Steubenville Mayor and Acting City Manager Domenick Mucci said during a City Council Finance Committee meeting Tuesday. Exactly how much more is not known, though Mucci explained “there will be substantial changes.”

Increasing amounts city workers will have to take out of their own pockets for health insurance was not an easy decision. Mucci noted a recommendation to make the change was approved by a 3-2 vote of a special health care cost containment committee. Two of the panel’s members are city representatives, while the other three are from employee unions covering Steubenville employees.

Health insurance premiums are among the fastest growing line items in many local government budgets. Because officials have no way of controlling many other expenditures, they often have little choice but to trim insurance costs to keep budgets in balance.

That is the situation in Steubenville. Again, however, it will not be popular among municipal workers. Mucci noted Tuesday he and other officials “will try our best to educate our employees on why this was necessary.”

There may be worse to come. Once the national health care law is implemented fully, many employers will be required to provide health insurance approved by the federal government. Because that includes benefits many people do not want or need, the cost will be higher than for most current policies.

That may result in an even bigger bite out of local government budgets – and more need to pass some of the cost down to employees.

Steubenville employees upset about the change have every right to be angry – but not at city government. Again, municipal officials have no choice but to find ways, as unpalatable as they may be for all concerned, to keep budgets balanced.