By Kiera Manion-Fischer and Loren Genson
A provision in the Affordable Care Act, effective next year, has Medina and Brunswick cutting back on hours for part-time city employees.
In Medina, the city cut back part-timers from 35 to 29 hours because the law requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide health care to those who log 30 hours or more.
The change affected 65 employees who worked about 35 hours a week.
“We feel bad as a city administration and as a Council in having to cut hours from 35 to 29,” Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell said. “We have the budget to pay the people, but we do not have the budget to pay for the health care.”
Paying for health care benefits for those employees would cost the city between $900,000 to $1 million, Hanwell said.
As a result of the cutbacks, two employees left the city to accept full-time jobs, the mayor said.
“We know we’re going to lose some good people if they can’t afford to only be there 29 hours,” he said.
Hanwell said all city departments have been affected, except for his office and the civil service department, which has one full-time employee.
The mayor sent a letter to all city employees at the end of November informing them of the change, which took effect at the end of December. The added cost “would have required us to eliminate numerous positions in the city to be able to pay for health care for those staff members remaining,” Hanwell wrote.
“Our other option was to try to retain all of our part-time positions, but reduce the hours permitted to be worked to remain in compliance with these regulations.”
The provision in the Affordable Care Act doesn’t take effect until 2014, but the requirement looks back at hours worked this year.
Because of the reduction in hours, the Sanitation Department is hiring two new part-time employees to fill shifts.
Brunswick Assistant Finance Director Keith Sperling said department heads are trying to keep employee hours under 28 per week in an effort to make sure they don’t reach the 30-hour limit.
There are between 80 and 85 part-time city employees during the winter months, he said.
Parks and Recreation Director John Piepsny said his department is among the most affected by the health care law. His office employs about 40 part-timers in the winter, with the number swelling to close to 70 during the summer months.
“The majority of our employees are part time,” he said. “We’re doing some shifting around.”
The biggest change will affect seasonal parks department employees, who will work 40 hours per week but not for more than 12 weeks.
“We’re going to have a first crew of seasonals … then bring in a new crew of seasonals to get us through the rest of the summer,” Piepsny said.
When asked whether the change to two seasonal shifts will save the city money, Piepsny said hiring more than one shift means adding training time, which will cost him more in his budget. But he said he’s not sure whether the savings will add up to the additional health care costs the city would incur if it kept the same employees on through the fall.
“I guess time will tell,” he said.
Piepsny said he hopes mild weather won’t last as long this year as it did in 2012 or the city may run out of time with its second crew.
“Last year, we had 80-degree weather in March, and we mowed up until the first week of November,” he said. “To get through, we’d almost need two-and-a-half crews.”
The health care provision doesn’t afffect Wadsworth as much as Medina and Brunswick.
Jim Kovacs, the city’s human resources director, said Wadsworth only has two employees who work more than 30 but fewer than 40 hours.
Kovacs said city officials have not yet decided whether to modify their hours.