Ross Commissioners Agree to Higher Health Insurance Contribution
Although commissioners passed an ordinance requiring a change in the percentage each contributes to heath insurance costs, the new rule doesn't take effect until 2014 for those in even wards and 2016 for those in odd wards.
Passing the ordinance 8-0, the Ross Township Board of Commisioners agreed Monday night to modify the amount of health insurance benefits the elected officials receive, establishing a minimum 10 percent contribution toward their costs.
The ordinance takes effect Jan. 1, 2014, for commissioners in Wards 2, 4, 6 and 8; and Jan. 1, 2016, for commissioners in Wards 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9.
The item passed without public comment from the commissioners.
Commissioner Chris Eyster, who has been advocating for reform of the township's policy toward providing health insurance to its elected officials since the fall, said the ordinance was a compromise reached in executive session.
He had asked, too, for the commissioners to agree to voluntarily contribute 10 percent immediately.
State law permits township commissioners to be included in the local government's group life, health and hospitalization policies for employees. But changes in such benefits can take effect only for commissioners elected or appointed after the effective date of any ordinance, according to the Township Commissioner's Handbook, published by the Pennsylvania Department of Economic and Community development.
Wayne Jones, the township manager, declined to say who had returned forms agreeing to immediatley begin the 10 percent contribution.
"I'm not going to say," he said. "We received a number of them back."
The Township Solicitor Bonnie Brimmeier supported the decision and advised against the information's release.
"I'm going to say no at this time," she said.
Such information has been released by the township in the past.
In 2011, the cost of providing health insurance coverage to the commission's nine members was budgeted at $136,000—or about 7.5 percent of the township's $1.8 million budget for health care costs, Jones said then.
Two commissioners—Lana Mazur and Gerald O'Brien—were contributing 5 percent toward the premium, which is deducted from the commissioners' annual salary of $5,000. A fourth commissioner, Pete Ferraro, was primarily insured through his own retirement benefits but used the township insurance to cover the gap in costs not covered by his primary provider, Jones said last fall.
Eyster said he has signed the form, agreeing to contribute 10 percent.
The commission's newest member, John Sponcer, said he does not participate in the plan. The issue was one of the key parts of his campaign, where he pledged not to accept the health insurance benefits.
In comparison, the township's public works employees contribute 5 percent toward their health care costs.
Union employees of the Ross Township Police Department contribute 6.7 percent toward health insurance premiums, and new hires within the township's administrative staff contribute as much as 10 percent, Jones said.
The township is insured through Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. In addition to health insurance, the township provides full dental and vision coverage to the elected officials and employees.