Meadville Tribune

Local News

September 28, 2013

SUNDAY ISSUE: County funding surplus

MEADVILLE — What should Crawford County do with about $4 million in excess funds in its workers’ compensation fund?

It’s a question Francis Weiderspahn Jr., C. Sherman Allen and Jack Lynch, the county’s three governing commissioners, will be wrestling with collectively in the months ahead as the county forms its 2014 budget.

All three said in a recent interview that they want to make wise choices — whatever is done with the money.

How it came about

Earlier this month, a report on the comprehensive 2012 audit found the county has approximately $5 million in its workers’ compensation insurance fund, an amount the county’s risk management adviser told county officials could be lowered substantially.

Workers’ compensation insurance provides coverage for an employee who has suffered an injury or illness resulting from job-related duties.

Mari Murphy of Risk Management Resources of Carnegie, the county’s risk management advisor, has recommended that based on its claim history, Crawford County could just set aside $500,000 to $600,000 in its workers compensation fund even though the county self-insures its workers’ compensation fund.

However, the three commissioners and Jody Marley, the county’s chief financial officer, are leaning toward keeping $900,000 to $1 million in the workers’ compensation fund in case of a catastrophic claim.

The growth in the workers’ compensation fund to about $5 million happened  over a period of years was due to a lack of information being shared among county departments, according to the current board of commissioners.

Until last year, the county’s chief financial officer also served as the human resources director. The current board of commissioners separated those duties and hired a full-time human resources director.

Commissioners say they’ll have a better understanding of what they’ll want to do with the excess funds as they look at both the 2014 budget and the years beyond.

“We have to be smart in terms of subsequent years,” Lynch said of what he feels the board needs to do. “I think it’s premature to say ‘Here’s what we’re going to do with the money.’”

“I don’t have any issues on where it’s going to go,” Allen said. “Once the (2014) budget is worked out we’ll have a better idea. I don’t want to spend it just because there is money there. We need to have some in reserve for catastrophic claims.”

Weiderspahn, who is commissioner chairman, agrees with his colleagues.

“We have to try and plan out what the effects might be,” he said of not only the 2014 budget, but those of following years.

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