By TIMOTHY COX
Public and private employers will get a one-time, 20 percent
rollback on their Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation
(BWC) premiums next year.
For large employers, that means a discount of thousands of dollars
against costs that have been rapidly rising in recent years.
The one-time dividend payment will save public entities about
$60 million statewide while private employers will save more
than $180 million, a BWC news release said. Government entities
will get the reduction with their annual bill in May. Most private-sector
employers get invoices in January and July.
“This decision is good news for employers in the state
of Ohio Gov. Bob Taft said in a separate news release. “Ohio’s
small- and medium-sized companies, particularly those in manufacturing,
can use this dividend to reinvest in their business, create
jobs and continue to grow Ohio’s economy.”
The premium reduction also will help small government entities
to balance budgets and preserve services that might have been
threatened by other cutbacks in state funding.
Premiums go up
BWC premiums actually are rising 2 percent for next year but
because of favorable investment returns, BWC officials authorized
the one-time 20 percent dividend. Employers were hit by average
increases of 7.4 percent the past three years, including a 12.1
percent bump last year.
Those steep increases were necessary to offset a high volume
of workplace injuries and poor claims management strategies,
BWC Director James Conrad said in a news release. After a concerted
effort to focus on safety and reduce workplace injuries, BWC
officials have seen those efforts pay off, Conrad said.
The 20 percent reduction in premiums will result in $158,404
in savings among Mercer County cities, villages, townships,
school boards and other public employers. County government
will see the biggest savings with a premium reduction of $37,601.
Mercer County Community Hospital will see its bill drop by $32,171.
Celina City Schools will save just over $20,000, the city of
Celina’s premiums will be reduced by about $16,000 and
most of the county’s rural school districts will save
between $5,000 and $8,000.
The actual dividend rebates could vary because they are based
on total annual payroll, which fluctuates from year to year,
local officials said.
Figures for premium reductions for private-sector employers
were not released.
The reduction in BWC premiums for next year is good news for
public entities that have been dealing with state budget cuts
and rising local financial burdens in recent years.
Celina Auditor Pat Smith said the premium reduction probably
would mean an additional $12,000 or so to the city’s general
fund. The remaining balance would be saved from the coffers
of the city’s electric, water and sewer funds, he said.
Any amount helps
“It’s not a huge amount of money but it’s
better than nothing,” Smith said.
Celina City Schools Treasurer Mike Marbaugh noted that the premium
discount is lower than in some previous years when the state
BWC has rebated as much as 75 percent of the total premiums.
The 20 percent savings will be welcome in reducing the district’s
estimated $90,000 cost for BWC coverage, he said.
Local governments might consider themselves lucky to be getting
any discount, Smith said. Only a couple of years ago, BWC officials
had said there would be no future rollbacks in premiums as injury
claims soared higher and investment income went flat.
“Public employers have reversed a disturbing trend,”
BWC’s Conrad said. “Public agencies are attending
BWC educational conferences, taking advantage of free BWC services
and grant monies and are genuinely doing a more effective job
of reducing injuries and protecting their employees. The results
speak for themselves.”