Last year, the Beacon City Council and Mayor Randy Casale put together a nine-member bipartisan commission to review the City Charter, which is done every 10 years. After this group of volunteers worked for months to identify what was needed to move our city forward in a sustainable manner, they uncovered a very concerning cost: health insurance for City Council members. The commission could find no other example in the state of New York where a city charter provided for insurance benefits for the part-time elected council members.
I sat on the council from 2011 to 2013. In 2013, the insurance premium paid by the city was a total of about $3,000 per year, and Council members paid 20 percent of the premium. The premiums are now close to $16,500 per year, an increase of 450 percent. The commission noted that, for Council members, the value of the benefits is higher than the salaries they receive.
The commission recommended that council members receive a $2,000 raise (to $11,000 annually) and the mayor receive $5,500 (to $30,000) so they could buy insurance through the city plan offered to employees. I find the idea of raises egregious and disrespectful to taxpayers. Beacon school board members, all volunteers who don’t get health benefits, handle a budget twice the size of the city’s.
Voters should be allowed to decide by referendum if council members should receive health insurance benefits.
Justin Riccobono, Beacon