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Governments must be cost-conscious

The Kanawha County Commission budgeted about $5.8 million for employee health care this fiscal year. The city of Charleston expects to spend almost $9 million for health care for its employees.

The county pays about 80 percent of workers' health premiums. The city pays about 78 percent.

This puts the county and the city conspicuously out of line with the realities faced by many of the taxpayers who support them.

In the long run, is that wise?

Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper told the Daily Mail's Paul Fallon that he believes the county will have to explore ways to reduce the costs. That could include asking employees to pay a larger share of their premiums for their health coverage.

But he made it clear how painful that would be for the county work force.

"Are we supposed to reduce the benefits and raise the premiums to the point that people don't really have insurance?" he asked.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said he doesn't believe the city is at the point of raising premiums for employees, and may never be. He thinks it would hurt morale.

"We have a great work force and a great work culture at the city," Jones said. "We don't want to do that unless we really have to."

Residents of Charleston and Kanawha County share officials' appreciation for county and city employees. They handle everything from public safety to fire protection to derechos to snow removal.

Nobody should take any of the people who provide all that for granted.

But public bodies need to demonstrate that they are operating in a cost-consciousness way. Otherwise, it becomes hard to make the case that they need to raise fees or taxes.


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