Bunnell’s worker’s compensation rates have risen dramatically since 2009 as a result of frequent claims, according to information provided to the Palm Coast Observer in a letter by Commissioner Elbert Tucker.
The city’s insurance company, Preferred Governmental Insurance Trust, began raising the city’s rates in 2010 and adding penalties, Tucker wrote.
In 2013, according to Tucker, “the penalty imposed was 158% of the normal premium,” and in 2014, it is 182% of the normal premium.
And, he wrote, “since it appears to the insurance company that over the past several years, it appears very little was being done in the area of public safety, to educate the workforce, because we still have the greater frequency and/or severity problem than is expected by the insurance company, Bunnell has been charged a separate penalty, called a ‘Schedule Adjustment,’ the last four years, totaling $62,907, on top of the out of control, ever-increasing rate.”
Palm Coast's rates increased about four percent last year, and generally follow inflation, said city spokeswoman Cindi Lane. Palm Coast is self-insured.
Flagler Beach, like Bunnell, has Preferred Governmental Insurance Trust. But Flagler Beach has not had such rate increases, said Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Campbell.
“We haven’t seen rate increases,” he said. “It’s a function of how many claims you have. Preventing accidents is the key.”
To do that, Campbell said, the city has a safety council, headed by city department heads, that meets regularly to review safety issues, replace safety equipment and hold training for city staff.
But so does Bunnell, said Bunnell City Manager Lawrence Williams.
Tucker’s letter lays the fault for the rate increases at the feet of former Bunnell city manger Armando Martinez, saying he should have instituted staff safety training — because, for a while, he held a title of “director of public safety” — and didn’t.
Martinez temporarily held the “public safety” title as a hold-over form his former position as Bunnell police chief. In Bunnell, the title came without a job description, but with a $6,000-per-year bonus.
Martinez was forced to give up the position — the Bunnell City Commission permitted him to keep the bonus — because he could not hold that title and the title of city manager at the same time.
Tucker suggested the city needs additional training to prevent rates from continuing to rise. “If we had ongoing training, some of the losses may have been curtailed, or prevented,” he wrote.