More information is needed about cutting employee benefits

Letter to the Editor,

I left the September 13 meeting disgusted that the city employee’s HSA benefit was cut already in April without any employee replacement analysis offered to the current residents of Henning. While I understand the immediate impact cut on the budget sheet, no thorough thought seems to be given to an expected overall cost for new hires, training and matching fund expenditures. 

In the August work session, I heard the low wages these employees accepted because the HSA was part of their incentive package. What wage will the city have to offer to future employees, and what will be the cost differential of the matching funds? Will it be more or is there a true cost savings? I think the taxpayers have a right to know.

Repeatedly the city employees explained at that work session how they left much higher paying jobs because of the HSA package. Certain council members and the mayor fought back with, “The school isn’t offering this, so therefore we shouldn’t either.” While I’ll admit that few private enterprises offer this incentive, after careful consideration, it occurred to me that this HSA might actually save Henning money in its matching FUDA/FICA and Social Security obligations. 

However, without pencil to paper calculations and comparisons, how would we know? Consider this incentive not only captures top notch employees at the height of their working potential, but allows money to be spent locally, dollars otherwise sent to Washington.

According to the state of Minnesota, the current unemployment rate in Otter Tail County is 2.7 percent, meaning finding future workers will be more expensive and difficult. How difficult will it be to find a new a utility administrator? How many delinquent accounts would we endure? How many elderly would find the human services paperwork too overwhelming to complete to get the help they need? How about the Water Treatment Plant manager? It takes three years apprenticing under someone to even be considered for this job. It might cost serious money to lure someone in to that position.

It’s customary to drop incentives between new hires rather than disincentivizing them during their tenure. An angry, disenfranchised employee is not good. There are two ways to lead employees: with a stick or a carrot. Leading by stick gets darned old.

The irony is that the mayor complimented Officer Helle on the excellent volunteer effort Helle put in to making the new shelter at the playground a reality. We all owe Officer Helle our gratitude. Minutes later the mayor announced that the HSA incentive had been voted on in April and was out of the budget. The 2 percent pay increase for employees this year (when inflation was 5 percent in July) means they lose money after the incentive is gone. Man, that’s cold.


Beth Rose,