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Tax office struggling to limit part-time hours
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As Hall County officials try to limit the number of hours part-time employees can work to avoid health care costs and penalties associated with the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, they are finding the tax commissioner’s office is having difficulty complying.

“Overall, I have been very pleased with the compliance,” Human Resources Director Bill Moats said. “That’s not to say that there’s not been a problem here and there.”

The ACA requires employers to provide health insurance for any employee working 30 hours a week or more, with stiff penalties for noncompliance.

But with medical coverage for a single county employee costing more than $10,000 annually, officials said they can’t afford this expense for part-time workers.

The mandate doesn’t take effect until January 2015, but it includes a look-back period that requires employers to report the amount of hours part-time workers are now logging, essentially making the law retroactive.

The ACA calls for a $2,000 annual fine per employee if insurance is not offered to eligible workers.

That’s why on March 1 the county began restricting the part-time hours of about 300 employees to no more than 28 per week.

But with workload increasing about 30 percent over the last year, thanks in large part to implementing the state’s new title ad valorem tax, Hall County Tax Commissioner Darla Eden said it is difficult to limit hours and also meet the demands of residents.

According to personnel logs obtained by The Times through an open records request, several part-time workers in the tax office regularly exceeded 28 hours per week during the month of March.

For example, between March 23 and 29, four part-time tax/tag clerks exceeded the limit, as did a part-time secretary, who worked 40 hours that week.

Eden acknowledged that her office is too reliant on part-time workers, adding that this explains why she is seeking funding increases in the next fiscal year.

Eden has proposed increasing her budget by more than $500,000 in the 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1, using most of the new appropriations to grow her full-time personnel.

But doing so would bring added health care costs anyway, something county officials may not have much appetite for as they continue budget negotiations over the next few weeks.