WBR council restores health care benefits

The West Baton Rouge Parish Council voted at its monthly meeting Thursday to restore health care benefits that had previously been cut from the parish government’s $54.5 million annual budget.

Parish Executive Assistant Jason Manola told council members there was enough money in the budget to include contributions to parish employee health savings accounts.

She said the parish could afford to continue contributing $400 annually for single, and $800 for family health, saving accounts to help defray annual policy deductions of $2,500 for single policyholders and $5,500 for families.

The council also approved an additional $40,000 to pay for an employee wellness program that would monitor blood pressure and cholesterol levels and also make recommendations to help employees improve their health.

In addition to the health savings accounts and wellness program, the council agreed to adjust the mosquito abatement program upward by $30,000 to pay for new equipment purchases needed to comply with state mandates.

Parish Finance Manager Philip Bourgoyne said the general fund portion of the budget will be $11 million, and $8.5 million of that will be used for operating expenses. He said $478,000 is set aside to retire debt and $2.3 million will be transferred to capital outlay, bringing the capital outlay fund to $14.7 million.

Parish President Riley “PeeWee” Berthelot told the council the parish could afford the extra cost for the employee benefits because building permit fee collections were 15 percent higher than last year and sales tax revenue was up 12 percent.

“Our original revenue projections were $4.9 million but we collected 6.2 million,” Berthelot said. “We were very pleased with that.”

In other business, Manola told the council that emergency backup pumps were ordered and would be in place in time for the next hurricane season.

Also, the council tabled discussion of a new speed bump installation policy until January, but approved an agreement to provide Acadian Ambulance a staging space for parish operations.

Berthelot said Acadian Ambulance has provided service for the parish for many years.

“They do a good job for us,” Berthelot said.