Visalia approves retiree health care increase

VISALIA, Calif.

City Retiree Bill Thompson spent twelve years heading up the Visalia Convention Center. At the time he retired, he expected to pay $57 a month towards health benefits. Now, he and other retired city employees are paying much more. "And all of a sudden now they're paying 300% or more in increases that they just didn't plan for."

The last hike took place two years. The city ordered retirees to pay an extra $23.00 a month. The prospect of another $108.00 increase is worrisome -- especially to those on fixed incomes.

"Many of them had to take -- at 70-75 years old -- have had to take part time jobs even some are working for the city to make ends meet," said Thompson.

City leaders say they don't want to make retirees pay more. But with insurance costs rising and an expected two million dollar deficit next year ... they have little choice.

City Manager, Steve Salomon said, "There's no other city ... of our comparable size around here that contributes to retiree healthcare so this is a cost that's unique to Visalia."

Some retired workers have questioned city officials' spending habits -- like purchasing this property near the transit center for one-million dollars. Salomon says the city has certain money it can only use for development or roads and nothing else.

Recently a group of retired city employees filed legal action against Visalia, but a judge found the city has a right to charge them more for healthcare. At this point, many retirees say they feel helpless ... worried their health benefits costs will continue to rise each year.

Thompson adds, "We as retirees have no power we're literally powerless we're the low hanging fruit if you will."

City officials couldn't rule out another increase in the future ... and hope as the economy stabilizes, they won't have to ask retired workers to fork over so much money.

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