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ANYTHING WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

Insurance1_2

How many of Red Bank’s 3,326 homeowners does it take to cover the cost of healthcare insurance for the 23 elected and appointed officials who use it?

+ Thirteen, in the riverside enclave of Hubbard Park, where the average property assessment is $1.19 million. Collectively, the municipal tax receipts (excluding school and county levies) from every house on Hubbard match the $59,400 cost of insuring elected and appointed officials almost exactly.

+ Thirty-eight, going by the proposed townwide average local property tax bill of $1,556, which is based on an average assessment of $404,981 struck earlier this year.

+ Sixty-nine, on Bank Street, where properties are assessed at an average $224,350, according to Monmouth County records. Except that there are only 55 properties on that three-block street. So even after using every penny of local tax paid by Bank Street property owners to cover this cost, the borough still would need to come up with another $12,000.

That’s the math. Whether or not the spending is appropriate is a political matter — and a hot one, it would appear, judging by a flurry of recent comments posted on redbankgreen. (See the comment trails beneath our stories on the budget, the appointment of Grace Cangemi to the council and elsewhere.)

As Mayor-elect late last year, Pasquale Menna appeared to agree that the issue of healthcare benefits for elected officials was worthy of serious reconsideration. But with a new budget moving forward and no changes to the coverage in evidence, the topic has yet to get a full public airing at the council. Where does Menna stand on it today, and what do each of the sitting council members have to say about it?

redbankgreen invites the mayor and council members to post their opinions on this site, just as all readers are encouraged to do the same.

Meantime, what follows is a Q&A with Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels conducted by email late last week in an effort to establish a basic framework of facts. It’s not an exhaustive review of the topic, but rather a starting point.

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Which elected and appointed positions in the borough government are entitled to coverage, and under what ordinance(s)?
All seven elected officials are eligible. All full-time appointed officials and appointed employees are eligible under borough policy section 4, pages 31 and 32, which is adopted by ordinance.

No appointed “professionals,” such as Borough Attorney, Borough Engineer, Planning Board or Zoning Board Attorneys, etc., receive health insurance. They are not eligible.

It should be noted that the policy of provided health insurance coverage for elected officials started under the previous administration (under Mayor Arnone) and has been continued. I do not know exactly what year it was started.

Under the current budget, how many individuals in each of these categories are covered: borough employees, elected officials and appointees?
There are 100 full-time employees covered, 16 appointed full-time employees/officials, and 5 elected officials. There are also 2 appointed employees with coverage as retirees that our policy also carries as eligible retirees.

How much will the borough spend on healthcare insurance under the 2006-2007 budget? How much of that is attributable to coverage of elected and appointed officials?
2007 budget $2,400,000; elected officials $59,400.

Are the terms of coverage for elected and appointed officials in any way different from the coverage available to borough employees? If so, please say how.
Coverage availability is the same for all.

Are the families of elected officials and appointees eligible for coverage?
Yes, they are eligible.

Are dental care and vision care included in the package?
Dental, but not vision.

What is the formal procedure for declining the coverage?
Employee must show proof of existing coverage and sign a waiver to decline coverage. That’s the procedure outlined in our collective bargaining agreements. We follow the same procedure for all who are eligible.

Among those eligible, which individuals declined the coverage in 2006?
Presently, the following elected officials receive coverage: Pasquale Menna, Arthur V. Murphy, R.J. Bifani, Sharon Lee, and Michael Dupont.

Does the borough participate in any group purchasing efforts, i.e. through an association such as the League of Municipalities, to obtain the best rates for this coverage?
Current provider Central Jersey Health Insurance Fund includes 22 municipalities.

Which insurer is the current coverage provider? Which other companies bid for the contract in the upcoming budget, and what were the prices they quoted?
Central Jersey Health Insurance Fund is the current provider. Requests for proposals were solicited by [Borough CFO] Frank Mason soon after his appointment. Bids were received from BGIA of Woodbridge for Blue Cross ($2,761,824) and Walsh Benefits of Fair Haven ($2,438,964) for Blue Cross. Both were more expensive than our current participation with the Central Jersey Joint Health Insurance Fund.

Red Bank was one of the organizers of the CJHIF (I believe, 16 years ago). Additionally, it should be noted that the borough received a $79,000 refund from the CJHIF for 2006 based on claims experience for the entire fund. Such refunds have been past practice for a few years.

Cigna, Aetna and IDA declined to provide a quote based on competitiveness.

In the past ten years, has the council asked for or received any reports specifically on the topic of insurance for elected and appointed officials?
An informal request of surrounding towns’ benefits was done by Frank Mason toward the end of 2006. [Download benefits_survey_2006.xls To view, you must have Excel software.]

Finally, how much are council members and the mayor paid for their service?
Council members receive $3,527 per year; Mayor receives $7,054 per year.

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