Back in December, when Swansboro commissioners talked about setting goals for the year 2020, Commissioner Frank Tursi made it clear that one of his goals would be to resume paying 100 percent of insurance premiums for town employees who participate.

Consider that goal achieved.

In action at the Jan. 13 board of commissioners meeting, a motion to that effect passed by a 5-0 vote.

Commissioner Pat Turner did have concerns about how the benefit might affect future budgets, but Chris Seaberg, town manger, said the funds would not come out of police or fire.

Turner said she is OK with the change, “As long as we don’t take it out of public safety.”

In his explanation of the change, Seaberg said the town opted to share the cost of health insurance premiums with employees in the 2019-20 budget.

Tursi voted against that budget. He raised similar concerns – employee benefits vs. other funding choices – in criticizing the town’s budget in 2018-19.

 “The cost per employee paricipating for this adjustment was $28.42 per pay period,” he stated in a memo to the board.

Seaberg also referred to Tursi’s comment in December that he and others would like to see the town reverse the decision for the second half of the budget year.

According to Seaberg’s memo, while there are 35 town employees eligible to participate in the health insurance program there are 25 employees participating in the program. Ten employees have opted to not be insured through the town.

With 13 pay periods remaining until the end of the budget year, it would cost $9,236.50 to fully fund the participating staff, according to Seaberg.

“This amount can certainly be covered by the same surplus that was used to cover exempt employee overtime costs that wasn’t covered after Hurricane Florence,” Seaberg stated in the memo.

Tursi was not alone in his effort to restore benefits. Others elected in the November 2019 election campaigned on the promise to do better for town staff. Restoring the health insurance benefits would be a good way to show that promise, he said in December.

In addition to incumbent Tursi, P.J. Pugliese, Laurent Meilleur and Larry Philpott were elected to the board in November.

Email Jimmy Williams at jimmy@tidelandnews.com.

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