Budget battles continue in Oberlin - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Budget battles continue in Oberlin

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OBERLIN, LA (KPLC) -

A big crowd gathered Monday night in Oberlin to go over the town's budget deficit.

To cut back on the town's spending, Mayor Rick Smith wants to change the health insurance plan, making full-time town workers begin paying 20 percent of their insurance premiums.

"The town of Oberlin has been consistently paying 100 percent insurance premium for full-time employees and elected officials and it's very expensive," Smith said.

Smith also said the town cannot withstand the financial obligation to pay increasingly higher insurance premiums.

"The town is paying approximately $17,000 per month and $240,000 a year," explained Smith.

Monday night's meeting was standing room only. Many residents expressed their concerns that the changes will cause people already struggling to lose their health insurance.

"It's going to hurt them in their pockets. They aren't making very much money in Oberlin anyway," Police Chief Grady Haynes said.

The changes will affect full-time Oberlin employees but will not affect elected officials currently in term. Smith said part-time elected officials are currently on the group policy and whether or not they will still receive full coverage is under review.

However, Haynes said the current financial deficit is a result of mismanaged funds.

"We fell below the financial means because the finances are not being managed properly," Haynes said. "We can make cutbacks in other areas but the measures that he's taking, well, we don't have to go that far."

Smith said he is concerned with keeping health insurance for all employees.

"If there is a way that we can reduce the cost of insurance and still maintain, I am all for it.  But I know we can't justify spending $17,000 a month for insurance," Smith said.

Residents requested another public hearing with a representative from the insurance company.

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