No more health insurance for life for Warrensburg politicians

— The Warrensburg Town board took action last week to end the controversial practice of granting free lifetime health insurance for board members in office at least 10 years.

In a unanimous vote, the board voted to amend their personnel policy to abolish the perk, as well as requiring sitting board members to contribute 20 percent to their health insurance premiums. The policy also calls for the health insurance to be terminated at the end of a board member’s term in office.

In the decision, the board also specified that all full-time non-union town employees will begin paying 10 percent of their health care premiums as of Jan. 1. Presently, those town employees hired before January 2007 pay nothing for their premiums, while those hired after that date pay 10 percent.

The lifetime health insurance coverage came to light earlier this year, when councilmen Dean Ackley and Austin Markey proposed that the practice be stopped, but only terminated for future board members.

A public outcry ensued, with citizens protesting that such a proposal granted special privileges to those now in power.

In the fall elections, Ackley and Markey were defeated by challengers Joyce Reed and Linda Baker Marcella, whose campaigns included protests that such a proposal was unfair and that health insurance for life could end up costing taxpayers $1 million or more.

In response, Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty introduced a 2012 budget in late October that reflected reductions in the town’s payments toward health insurance coverage for board members.

The employee policy revisions were supported in a unanimous vote at the Dec. 14 meeting

Other actions, the town board:

• Scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. Wednesday Jan. 11 to consider a local law prohibiting deposition of snow on sidewalks. Several residents and businesses, in clearing their driveways, have been known to push snow onto the sidewalks, Geraghty said. While a state law now exists prohibiting the practice, a local ordinance provides for efficient enforcement, he said. A public hearing was also scheduled for the same time and date to change the town water billing from annual to quarterly.

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