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TWO POLICE CONTRACTS COME WITH HEALTH INSURANCE SAVINGS

The Cheektowaga Town Board is expected to approve contracts with two police unions Monday night to change health insurance coverage and save the town about $820,000 a year.

The Cheektowaga Police Club and the Cheektowaga Police Captains and Lieutenants Association are the last of the town's five unions to agree to changes in health insurance. The first to agree was the town's largest, the Town of Cheektowaga Employees Association, which ratified a new contract in November 2003.

"This represents the conclusion of the implementation of our health insurance program," said Council Member Jeff Swiatek. "The Town Board was committed to controlling health insurance costs."

The police will receive the same deal as other town employees and non-union staff. They will no longer be offered the traditional Blue Cross Blue Shield base plan but will be able to choose from among several health maintenance organizations. Employees still can receive the Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage if they pay the difference in the premium cost between that and the HMO.

Swiatek said the move to HMOs will save the town about $520,000 for the 111 members of the Police Club and $126,000 for the 17 members of the Captains and Lieutenants Association. The town also will pay the premium for the lesser "C" plan, saving an estimated $150,000 for the Police Club and $25,000 for the Captains and Lieutenants Association. By self-insuring, the town will boost the benefits up to the "A" plan at no cost to the officers.

The town stands to see "tremendous" savings in health insurance costs, but it took some time to negotiate the changes, Swiatek said.

"The town's insistence on the health insurance being included in the contract was the main sticking point," he said. "Police negotiations are generally more complex because you deal with the reality of binding arbitration."

The Police Club contract expired Dec. 31, 2001, and the Captains and Lieutenants' contract was up Dec. 31, 2002. The new contracts will expire at the end of 2006.

Pay increases for the two unions are the same, except that the Police Club will receive raises of 2.75 percent for 2002. The raises for the following years for both unions are 2.75 percent for 2003, 2004 and 2005 and 2.95 percent for 2006.

The new insurance policies are to go into effect June 1.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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