Niagara County seeks to trim health benefits for nonunion retirees - The Buffalo News
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Niagara County seeks to trim health benefits for nonunion retirees

LOCKPORT – Niagara County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz said Friday that a proposal to make nonunion county employees and retirees pay part of their health insurance premiums is an attempt to set an example for county unions.

Glatz said the plan, expected to be voted upon Tuesday by the County Legislature, mirrors the proposal the county has made to its unions, which so far have balked at it.

Glatz said if the unions want pay raises – the county is entering its third year of barring annual “step increases” for union workers – they have to agree to health givebacks.

Legislator Anthony J. Nemi, chairman of the Administration Committee, said he expects the measure to pass.

Nemi, I-Lockport, said it was withdrawn from his committee’s agenda this week after Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, objected that he hadn’t been given a chance to read it before the meeting.

But Nemi said the financial impact of the measure already is built into the 2014 county budget, which the legislators also are to vote on Tuesday, so the health insurance resolution will be revived as a late addition to that meeting’s agenda.

“I don’t see why [the Legislature] won’t go for it,” Nemi said.

Most nonunion employees who take county benefits will begin paying 10 percent of their health insurance premiums as of July 1.

The primary exceptions are assistant district attorneys, who must begin paying 10 percent on Jan. 1, and a few department heads, who don’t have to pay health premiums until 2015.

Glatz said those exceptions are pegged to salary moves. The prosecutors are receiving raises with the new year because the pay scale for their office has been increased.

The department heads who are being given a one-year break from health premiums are going without pay increases in 2014. They are Economic Development Commissioner Samuel M. Ferraro; Real Property Services Director John E. Shoemaker; and Election Commissioners Mary Ann L. Casamento and Lora A. Allen.

County elected officials will contribute 10 percent at the start of their next term. Legislators voted in 2011 to begin paying 20 percent of their premiums.

Tuesday’s resolution also is expected to eliminate the most expensive of the county’s three health plans from enrollment by nonunion retirees, starting in 2015.

Nonunion retirees who began working for the county before 2009 would still be allowed fully county-paid health insurance, but only if they worked 20 years or more for the county. Those who worked 15 to 19 years would pay 25 percent of the premium. Those who worked 10 to 14 years would pay 50 percent. And those who worked less than 10 years would pay the entire cost if they want county health coverage.

Nonunion workers who started with the county in 2009 or later would never have fully-paid county health insurance when they retire. Even those who work 20 years or more in county government would have to pay 25 percent.

Those recent hires who eventually work 15 to 19 years would pay 50 percent of the premium, and those with less than 15 years’ service would have to pay the full premium themselves.


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