Breckenridge gives first nod to cheaper town council benefits
The Breckenridge Town Council approved a measure on a unanimous vote Tuesday granting future town leaders access to a less expensive health insurance plan.
The change would lower premiums for members of the town council elected in 2014 or after, and increases the cost for the town, if adopted on a final vote later this month.
“Insurance these days, as everybody knows, is very difficult to get,” Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said. “I don’t think anyone’s asking for a hand out, just a fair shot.”
For a single council person, the measure would reduce the monthly premium from $484 to $28. For a family, the rate would fall from more than $1,000 monthly to $148.
Five of the seven sitting elected officials will be eligible to take advantage of the less expensive benefits package if they are re-elected to second terms. Mayor John Warner and Councilwoman Jen McAtamney are term limited and will not have an opportunity to opt into the plan.
Wolfe was the only sitting official who currently uses the town insurance and will be able to take advantage of the less expensive plan, but only if Breckenridge residents vote her back into office in 2016.
Town leaders who backed the proposal said they hoped the reduced cost of the benefits package would entice more and younger members of the community to run for a seat on the council.
“It could make it more possible for them to be a participant and to put themselves up for election,” McAtamney said.
But that same argument caused hesitation for Councilman Gary Gallagher, who said he worried people might run just for the access to insurance benefits.
Warner said increasing government participation was also the goal of a council pay raise several years ago, but it did not seem to have the desired impact.
If, eventually, all seven members of the council signed on to the insurance plan, it would cost taxpayers approximately $63,000 at an average cost of $9,000 per person. Under the council’s current insurance plan, the elected official covers that $9,000.
“It is a potential cost to the town of Breckenridge municipal government from where they’re at today,” Warner said.
Elected officials in Breckenridge currently have access to a specific, more expensive benefits plan. The measure, if passed on final reading, would provide them with the option of signing up for the insurance plan currently available to town employees, which has lower premiums, town staffers said.
The insurance measure comes after the council extended a $500 per year recreation benefit to members of the Breckenridge Open Space Advisory Council and the Breckenridge Planning Commission. Council members themselves also enjoy the recreation benefit, which can be used to purchase passes to the town recreation center, Stephen C. West Ice area or the town-owned Nordic center, but not the golf course, according to town staffers.
Members of the town council are paid $800 per month. The mayor is paid $1,200 monthly.
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