Election 2017: Steamboat residents to decide fate of city council health insurance plans
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs residents will decide this fall whether their elected officials should continue to get health insurance benefits from the city government as part of their compensation package.
Since around 1990, council members have received the same insurance benefits that city employees get. But it wasn’t known until recently that those benefits were given to the council members illegally back then because they weren’t approved by city voters as required in the city charter.
The cost of the benefit varies from city employee to city employee. But the government budgeted to spend up to $95,000 for all of the council’s combined health insurance benefits this year.
Council members see the health insurance benefit as helpful in recruiting new candidates.
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They also looked at what other mountain communities in Colorado offer their elected officials and concluded health insurance benefits were not out of the norm.
For example, Breckenridge, Durango and Vail are among the cities and towns that offer similar benefits.
The Steamboat council did voluntarily remove such things as a $400 recreation bonus from their insurance benefit plan because it was not common in other communities.
Council President Pro-Tem Jason Lacy said the health insurance benefit didn’t motivate him to run for office.
But he thinks it’s an appropriate form of compensation for an elected official that puts in as many as 80 hours a month serving the community.
“We are technically city employees, and all city employees are eligible for health insurance, so it seems rational,” he said. “This is a real sacrifice and a time commitment to serve on council, and it just seems like, based on what we see in other communities, this would be an appropriate thing to continue.”
Just like city employees, council members pay premiums for the health plan.
“If the public is comfortable with this staying in place, we are too,” Lacy said. “And if the public is not, the public has spoken.”
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