WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — When Wichita County Commissioners discuss staff reduction, it will, more than likely, draw attention and a filled commissioners courtroom.
But Monday, it was the proposed creation of a new position, sparking debate and dissension.
When the new HRA benefits program was approved by Wichita County Commissioners and along with rising healthcare costs and budget cuts, commissioners decided to eliminate the benefits manager position in the Human Resources department and instead refer employees to an ‘800’ number for benefits claims and questions.
“We cut out that part of the job of having that person. That was a bad idea,” Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom said.
With an opening in a different department and the need being there, Wichita County Auditor Deborah Stevens said now is the time to hire a benefits manager to replace the one that used to be in Human Resources.
“The commissioners had already suggested that we do this in 2020 and I have an open position in my office in accounts payable. I have multiple good candidates,” Stevens said.
During the meeting, several county employees voiced their concerns and opposition saying their department is in need of help, have had jobs cuts, but still have the same workload.
Wichita County Clerk Lori Bohannon remembers 2014 vividly.
“I had to lose a couple of employees. Other offices lost two to four employees. To have another office come up and request an employee and get it, it kind of makes it hard,” Bohannon said.
Though it may not be a popular decision with many, Stevens said the need for benefits assistance is needed and to wait would be a big mistake.
“We can fund it out of our budget for the current year and it will make the person immediately available,” Stevens said, which she and others hope, put a stop to frustration with health benefits.
For the rest of the year, the benefits manager position will be paid from the general fund, in the amount of $24,000. This position is expected to be budgeted for next year as well. As to who will be put in the benefits manager position, Stevens said that information should be available in about a month.