Ellis County commissioners approved a 2 percent cost-of-living increase in retiree benefits during its meeting Monday night.

Although not put into the budget as a specific item, County Auditor Mike Navarro told commissioners funds were available in other areas to allow for the measure.

Overall, the increase will cost just under $16,000 for the year, with Navarro saying information was not immediately available as to the individual impact a retiree might see on his or her retirement check. That type of information could be put together in the future for commissioners to see, he said.

Discussion on the agenda item noted the Consumer Price Index rating reflected a cost-of-living increase of about 3.5 percent for the time period of October 2006-October 2007.

The commissioners had a choice of going with no increase, a 1 percent increase at a cost to the county of about $8,000 for the year or a 3 percent increase at an annual cost of about $26,000.

“One of the things I’ve heard from retirees is a gratefulness for the cost-of-living when they do get it,” County Judge Chad Adams said, noting there may be years the county cannot do a cost-of-living increase. “I think it is sending a message to those who’ve spent a substantial amount of time with the county.”

The commissioners have approved a cost-of-living increase the past five years for retirees: 3 percent (2003), 2 percent (2004), 2 percent (2005), 2 percent (2006) and 3 percent (2007).

Ellis County is one of about 576 entities - including counties, cities and school districts - participating in the Texas County and District Retirement System.

The county will pay in about $1.8 million this year into the system, an amount based on actuarial studies and typically from 9 to 10 percent of the covered payroll. The amount also includes the cost of the county’s optional group term life program.

This year, the county is contributing 8.99 percent of its payroll, which represents a decrease from last year’s rate of 9.24 percent, said Diana Buckley, director of human services.

The county match is $2.25 for every $1 put in by an eligible employee, whose contribution rate is 7 percent. Employees are vested at eight years of service.

The average match across TCDRS-participating entities is $1.68, it was noted, with Collin County matching with $2.50 and Dallas and Tarrant counties matching with $2.

An individual’s retirement is based on several factors, including the number of years worked and the rate of pay.

In other business, commissioners approved a contract with CivicPlus for Web site services, including development of a new site for the county, training and implementation. The new site will be hosted on the company’s server, with no payment due until its “go-live” date, with the project expected to be complete in about six months.

The county’s MIS director, Teral Crawford, said the contract would help alleviate the maintenance burden on county staff, which will still be responsible for the uploading of information. The move also puts the county closer to such capabilities as broadcasting commissioners court meetings, as an example, via the Internet.

Commissioner Heath Sims noted the positive response he has received with the Web site his precinct established as a way to help inform the public.

“I’ve had so many comments on the little Web site we’ve put up,” he said. “More and more people are visiting it and looking at the information. … I think this is a good thing for the county.”

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