Cortland County Lawmakers Looking at Options to Contain Rising Workers Comp Costs
With losses mounting in the Cortland County's self insured workers compensation program, lawmakers are considering charging some municipalities more money to recoup losses and potentially eliminating caps that prevent local governments from paying based on their actual claims history.
Since 2004 Cortland County has provided workers compensation coverage to the areas towns and villages and the City of Cortland. The county serves as a broker and the municipalities pay the county to provide workers compensation insurance for their employees. The arrangement allows the city, towns, and villages to obtain coverage at rates less than what they would pay if they individually purchased coverage.
Over the past three years the county has seen claims in the program continue to climb, and while the county has been able to absorb those costs with a half million dollar workers compensation reserve fund, the fund is now down to about $50 thousand dollars and the claims have not slowed.
County Administrator Martin Murphy says changes are required or the county will face having to cover the expenses.
Two municipalities in particular, the Town of Hartford and the Village of Homer have had workers compensation claims in excess of their annual assessments. The Town of Harford has suffered the deaths of two firefighters and Homer has seen employee claims higher than other municipalities.
In response Murphy is proposing the county eliminate the annual caps that limit how much the municipalities pay, in addition he wants the legislature to gradually increase the payments for Homer and Harford to allow those two municipalities to catch up and begin paying their fair share.
County Attorney Karen Howe cautioned lawmakers that eliminating the caps could have dire consequences on the individual municipalities in the event of a catastrophic claim such as the death of another firefighter.
County lawmakers plan to discuss the issue with local leaders at the upcoming county, towns and villages meeting scheduled for the 23rd.