Grand jury: Rein in benefits

Extraordinary report says Butte County is paying out $1 million annually more than it should

In an extraordinary move, the 2008-09 Butte County Grand Jury issued a special report March 2, months before its final report is due, chiding the county for paying out more in medical-insurance benefits for retirees than is reasonable.

Apparently, the county offers a plan that allows retirees to use accumulated sick leave to offset their share of health-insurance costs, with the result that 120 retired employees are receiving free insurance—at a cost to the cash-strapped county of $1 million annually.

The report also notes that, in determining comparable wages and benefits, the county uses data from several counties whose costs of living are much higher than Butte’s.

Release of the report apparently was timed to coincide with current contract negotiations.