Health care fight

WAYNESFIELD – A pair of Waynesfield Village Council members Monday took aim at eliminating health insurance benefits for the mayor or any other elected village official, but they fell a vote short of a tie.

During Monday’s meeting, councilor Bill Motter made a motion to eliminate insurance for the mayor, which was seconded by Cheryl Jerew. Mayor Mike Ridenour is the only village elected official who receives any benefits paid by the village. Motter stipulated that if the motion passed that it be as an emergency, or that it would take effect immediately.

The other four councilors voted against the move.

Jerew said she felt the mayor reaped quite significantly from the plan, and she feared if the matter wasn’t approached, the 1 percent income tax levy currently in place in the village could be rescinded by voters.

“It is that levy that pretty much pays for the insurance,” Jerew said. “If we do not do something about it, I have heard talk of it being voted down by the residents.”

Eliminating health insurance for the mayor was advocated by Motter as one of his main platform themes during the election, and Jerew also has  made her views known on the issue since being elected to her council seat. Councilors voted last year to eliminate the mayor’s premium costs for the insurance, a move that took effect Jan. 1.

Immediately after the vote, resident Sharon Ewing called fellow councilors to task, and one councilor in particular, telling councilor Richard Libby he had stated in a candidate’s forum held prior to the 2011 election that he was against providing insurance to village employees. Libby denied the accusation.

“You are twisting my words,” Libby said. “I said I would not support providing insurance for a part-time worker. From what I have seen now that I am here, he earns $250 a month for a full-time position. We have to do what we can to keep good people involved.”

Councilors tabled further discussions on a new health insurance plan for the seven village employees after discussing the matter at length during the meeting.

Jon Derryberry of Derryberry & Davis Insurance Agency gave the councilors two options from which to choose. In one option, insurance premiums would be completely picked up by the village. Employees would pick up 25 percent of dependent premiums and the employee prescription plan would cost $20/$40/$75 on a drug tier system. The plan would save the village approximately $10,259 compared to the current plan.

In the second option, the employee deductible would increase to $1,000 with the out-of-pocket expense increasing to $2,600 per person. The employee monthly contribution would increase to 10 percent of monthly premiums and the plan would have the same prescription plan.

Several councilors felt a good insurance plan had to be kept in place for village employees, especially since wages were traditionally lower compared to workers in other municipalities.

“I think we have good people working in the village, and I would like to be able to provide them incentive to keep them here,” Libby said.

This is a way to alleviate that,” councilor Chris Kaufman said.

However, Motter and Jerew felt adjustments needed made to the insurance plan to place the insurance plan more in line with what their constituents are seeing.

“There are some communities that are folding and others that are working to keep from folding,” Jerew said. “I don’t want to stiff anyone, but us paying employee premiums is not appropriate to our constituents.”

Councilors agreed to collect more data on health insurance plans for other surrounding municipalities and comparable-sized villages throughout the state and review them at next month’s meeting before taking a vote.