LAWRENCEVILLE -- On the final day of a week-long budget review, Gwinnett leaders learned of another law change that could have a big impact on the government, this time the new federal health care law.
Kenneth Poe, the county's human resources director, said Tuesday officials have been creative over the past few years to keep health care costs down, but the organization is left with few options other than increasing costs to employees or increasing premiums.
With penalties attached to the controversial health care law, Poe said the government is working to keep its benefits package competitive, so people aren't tempted to leave for health care exchanges. But he did note that some people in the private sector have said the penalties may be so law that it makes dropping health care a viable alternative.
For now, though, he has asked for a 2013 project to evaluate the creation of a wellness center for county employees.
The new law requires 100 percent coverage of preventative care, Poe noted. Plus an improvement to health could mean a savings of up to $900,000 a year in a reduction of claims, an initial study says.
Costs for the center, which could be housed in a county facility with a contractor providing medical staff, have not been determined. Poe said he expects the center could open in 2014, if leaders vote to move forward with the planning.
Also Tuesday, Finance Director Maria Woods asked for some funding because of a new state law changing motor vehicle taxes.
The change, which caused Tax Commissioner Richard Steele to ask for a boost in temporary staffing Monday, will require a higher one-time tax instead of the annual "birthday tax" currently collected.
Woods said officials expect the number of appeals of motor vehicle valuations to jump from about 100 a year to about 3,500 a year based on the law change. She asked for $175,000 to hire a contractor to help settle the disputes.
In an attempt to boost tax revenues, the department is also seeking at total of $350,000 for contractors to audit and provide values of aviation property as well as billboards and cell towers. Woods said contracts could be limited to the revenue generated by the contract, guaranteeing the county breaks even on the endeavors, but it could add as much as $2 million to the tax rolls.