Saturday, January 3, 2015

Franklin Annual Report 2014: Human Resources

Continuing our read of the Annual Report, we get to the section on Human Resources. As about 80% of the overall Franklin budget is related to the total costs of the people employeed by the town to perform the services we all receive, this is an important section.

If you visit the Town of Franklin website, Human Resources is found under “more”, but none of the services the Town provides can happen without the employees. The primary function of the Town of Franklin is Customer Service and that service is provided by its employees. The Human Resources Department provides Customer Service primarily to applicants, active and former employees.

During this fiscal year we began to see a transition in staff as baby boomers began to retire. This included five new full time hires in the Public Works Department, four in the Fire Department, two on the Custodial staff, and one Patrol Officer. As the Town withdrew from Civil Service for new hires in the Police Department, we sponsored an entry level exam. Over 200 individuals tested with over 75% passing the examination. As the fiscal year closed, we have begun a review of applicants, with the goal of filling at least two positions.

There are many conversations about benefits with new hires, and they continue throughout an employee’s time with the Town, as their lives change, and still continue into retirement. All retirees from the Town and School Department are cared for in the Human Resources Department. Retirees remain active, with changes to their health insurance programs as they move around the country and become eligible for Medicare.

In addition to the mandatory participation in Norfolk Retirement System, the Town offers:
• Life Insurance
• Health Insurance
• Dental Insurance
• Section 125 Flexible Spending Accounts
• Short and Long Term Disability plans
• Section 457 Savings Plans

Health Insurance continues to be a major focus of planning, budgeting and communication. Federal Health Care Reform, also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had a significant impact on our health insurance program and premiums as it includes per capita fees for a national study commissions. Other than payroll, it represents one of the largest single costs to the Town. Changes at the state and federal level continue to develop, and we are watching to keep up to speed on the regulations, and working for the most cost effective way to provide comprehensive coverage to our employees and retirees.

All employees, other than Police and Fire, are covered by Workers’ Compensation, a federally mandated program. Our goal is to prevent accidents and lost time from work, and to protect individuals from financial loss when there is an incident. This “no fault” insurance is designed to provide income security and medical coverage for individuals injured on the job. Since July 2011, the program has been insured with MIIA. Human Resources continues to ensure that incident reports are filed timely with Worker’s Compensation, reviewing claims and making payments directly to the employees. We are now able to file claims “on line” to get them set up quickly so employees are treated and claims processed quickly.

Employees who have needed to use the services report a strong and positive experience working with claims managers. We also work with managers and employees across the Town to support safe work practices, so that the frequency and length of workers’ compensation and 111F absences are held to a minimum.

The Town of Franklin Safety Committee monitors practices and policies, with an eye to reducing hazards at the worksite.

We reviewed all benefit programs to be sure they comply with Federal and State laws. We continue to work to comply with all new reports and regulations. Over the coming year this will continue to add complexity as we coordinate changes at the Federal level with state regulations, or locally negotiated. We provide benefits that are competitive with the market to attract and keep the right workforce and provide those quality benefits at the lowest cost possible.

The HR Department has continued a wellness program, offered by MIIA to the employees of the Town. The Town was awarded a commendation for its program “Excellence in Wellness, Large Trust Accounts.” These have included fitness walking, relaxation techniques, and healthy eating. This
program, designed to improve health and fitness will continue next year at no cost to employees or to the Town. We hope to be able to focus future programs to target wellness issues that give rise to increased health care costs. A core of employees were enthusiastic about participation in the strength and aerobic classes, Healthy Matters heart program and an extended walking program.

In addition to active employees we are responsible for over 400 retirees of the Town of Franklin and Franklin Public Schools who have health and/or life insurance as a result of their long-term employment with the Town. We enjoy hearing about their activities after they have left employ with the town. As retirees are a very mobile population, it is our goal and mission to assist all retirees and their covered spouses with any questions they might have which includes the processing of all of their enrollment, coverage and address changes on a daily basis.

As we begin the next year our goals include:
• Work with all departments to maintain a safe work environment, to reduce lost time from on the job injuries.
• Review return to work options for employees who have been out on Workers’ Compensation or 111F.
• Review best practices in the public sector and find opportunities for skill development to offer to municipal employees.
• Continue to monitor changes arising from National Health Care Reform.
• Partner with School HR activities to find service improvements and cost efficiencies.
• Deliver high quality customer service to employees, retirees, and citizens.
• Constantly monitor full range of benefit options. Focus on the Health Insurance Program.
• Identify information which can be best communicated electronically and keep web site current.
• Provide excellent service to and resolve administrative issues arising from municipal health insurance program.
• Facilitate managers using job descriptions and performance evaluations to strengthen organizational and employee performance.
• Educate employees on the Sec. 125 Flexible Spending Accounts which are available to them for medical or dependent care costs. Support managers and employees in employee relations activities.

We appreciate our employees and retirees and look forward to another year of providing them service.

Respectfully Submitted
Stephanie Lutz
Human Resources Director.


Each of the municipal and school unions, as well as retired employees has a seat on the Town of Franklin Insurance Advisory Committee. It provides recommendations to the Town Administrator on health and dental plans. Meetings are an opportunity for employees from the unions to learn about insurance products, industry trends, and to help identify ways to meet employee needs within the framework of the Affordable Care Act, Massachusetts General Law, and available financial resources.

With the further portions of the Affordable Care Act from the Federal Government on the horizon, we anticipate changes, administrative challenges, and premium increases in the coming years.

There were no changes to the Health Insurance program, although there were numerous discussions about other carriers and design changes. Our initial quote was a 9.8% increase, but we were unable to find any better quotes. There were numerous discussion with MIIA and they suggested that we participate in a Pilot program including a robust and expanded Wellness initiative, and an agreement to help keep participant contact information current. This resulted in a renewal with a 7.8% premium increase. The Wellness Team held one meeting in June and will be meeting on a regular basis in the coming year to focus on education and programs to tackle life habits that contribute to good health.

The Town continued a Health Reimbursement Arrangement to help offset hospital in patient costs. We are happy to report that few of our employees required in patient care.

The Town provides dental benefits on a totally employee paid basis. The Committee again selected Guardian Life Insurance as the provider for its dental plan no increase to premiums. Approximately 300 employees have elected this benefit.

The Flexible Spending Account vendor was retained. This vendor provides debit cards for employees to use for immediate payment. Employees can avoid an additional out of pocket expense by using the cards.

The plan runs on a September 1 through August 31 calendar to more closely coordinate with the Health Insurance Plan and with the school year. We hope the participation in this plan will grow as employees recognize the tax savings available to them, and become more experienced in planning for medical and dependent care costs. Since this program exists on a tax exempt basis, changes at the federal level may cause plan changes. We will monitor any activity about Sec. 125 of the Tax Code to ensure we remain in compliance.

Participants on the IAC brought good questions to the process and have been very effective in exploring alternatives, and making recommendations. The IAC plans to continue its work gaining knowledge about the full insurance program. In the coming year we hope we will be able to reach out through this committee to other employees so that there is greater understanding of benefit plans.

Respectfully Submitted
Stephanie Lutz
Human Resource Director

screen grab of  Franklin's Human Resources webpage
screen grab of  Franklin's Human Resources webpage

To find out more about the Human Resources Department, you can find them here


The full annual report can be obtained from the Town Clerk's office (hard copy) or viewed and/or downloaded from the Franklin website here

Annual reports of prior years can also be found online at

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