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Amherst Town Board votes to end practice of lifetime health benefits for top officials elected after Jan. 1

The Amherst Town Board has voted to end the practice of providing lifetime health insurance benefits to supervisors, town clerks and highway superintendents who are elected or re-elected after Jan. 1.

Those holding the three offices were the last remaining elected officials in the town still eligible for lifetime health insurance after five years of service. It has been almost 40 years since the town stopped offering paid medical insurance at retirement to the majority of its unionized employees.

The benefit was taken away from members of the board, except for the supervisor, about 20 years ago, said Councilman Mark A. Manna, who introduced the latest resolution at Monday’s board meeting. “I took it away from appointed officials in 2010,” he said.

“It’s obvious that the practice of giving politicians lifetime health care after five years of service is costly. It’s a benefit that is overly generous and it should have been stopped years ago.”

Manna estimated that the town will save $10,000 to $15,000 annually for each elected officeholder no longer eligible for lifetime health benefits. “We have great health care benefits in the town. We don’t skimp on anything,” he said.

His attempt to get a similar resolution approved 1½ years ago saw the measure stall. He finally decided that the board was not obligated to wait for a committee to end “an expensive gift of taxpayer dollars.”

However, elected officials, past and present, who already qualified for paid medical insurance through the town after they retire will not see their benefits change.

“We cannot legally take it away from people who have already earned it,” Manna said, “but we’re stopping it going forward.”