March 17, 2004

Health insurance for elected officials

Another issue that came up at the Town Board meeting last Thursday was the question of health insurance for full-time elected officials: the Town Clerk and Highway Superintendent.

The town pays the full cost of either single or family health insurance for appointed employees, but only the single cost for full-time elected officials. The elected officials can use the family plan, but have to make up the difference themselves, which comes to $159 per week. As Highway Superintendent Jack Bush noted at the February meeting, this effectively makes the Deputy Highway Superintendent better paid than the Highway Superintendent.

Town Clerk Bambi Hollenbeck (who doesn't herself currently use the family insurance) did a survey of surrounding towns, as well as a few towns with similar populations and tax bases, and presented the results.

Councilman Marty Christofferson said "it looked to me like we were kind of unique," in treating elected officials differently from appointed officials. Christofferson wasn't, however, "sure how to draft a resolution that does it", and wanted to hear from the town attorney, Mahlon Perkins, before moving ahead with this.

Bush pointed out that elected officials were on the same (Teamsters) health plan as appointed officials, and the only thing the board would need to do is authorize the payment. This raised questions about whether the town pays the full amount for other employees, which it does, without charging the employees a percentage. Stelick noted that other towns charge employees a percentage, and Christofferson noted that TC3 employees pay a percentage. The union contract specifies that, and it's practice at the town for other employees as well. Chris Michaels noted that he's happy board members can get insurance through the town, though the town doesn't pay for their coverage.

In the end, board members sounded like they wanted to take a long-term look at who pays for insurance for all employees, figure out where this would come from in the budget, and consult with Mahlon Perkins before taking action, though Christofferson said "in principle, I agree that full-time elected officials should be treated like full-time employees." Chris Michaels also asked when any such change would take effect if passed - immediately, retroactive to January 2004, or in 2005. Hattery wanted to see cost numbers before voting. Action was held to the next meeting.

There was a question a few years ago, which re-surfaced in the last election, over whether the Highway Superintendent should be elected or appointed. Whatever your opinion on that issue, it seems very strange that health insurance benefits would change as a side-effect of that. While elected officials often do their work with more controversy and more scrutiny brought on by the election cycle, it hardly seems reasonable to deny full-time officials who happen to be elected the same benefits they would have if appointed.

Posted by simon at March 17, 2004 6:13 PM in ,
Note on photos