Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Gillian Graham firstname.lastname@example.org
SOUTH PORTLAND – City councilors agreed Monday to consider options for phasing out city-funded health insurance for councilors.
It was the council's first public discussion of health insurance since a resident, Albert DiMillo, dropped a lawsuit against the city over the issue in June.
Since 1977, city councilors have had the option to receive health insurance from the city, in addition to the $3,000 annual stipend outlined in the city charter. Some residents and councilors have complained that the option creates inequity because not all councilors receive the benefit.
The city now pays more than $36,000 a year for city councilors' health insurance. If all councilors had family plans, the cost would be more than $100,000.
Stipends and health insurance for councilors represent 0.2 percent of the city's $28.5 million municipal budget. City Manager Jim Gailey said the average homeowner in South Portland pays $3.13 a year for council representation.
Councilors Maxine Beecher and Gerard Jalbert have single policies, paid in full by the city. Councilors Tom Coward and Tom Blake have family policies, for which the city pays 80 percent of the cost.
Councilors Rosemarie De Angelis and Alan Livingston and Mayor Patti Smith do not have health insurance through the city.
In November, the city sought advice from William Plouffe, an attorney, on whether providing health insurance to city councilors in addition to the $3,000 stipend complies with the city charter. Plouffe concluded that providing the stipend and health benefits does not comply with the compensation limit in the charter.
DiMillo said the health insurance was a "well-kept secret for 30 years" before it came to light in 2008. He proposes a charter change to increase the stipend to $5,500 a year and clearly outline that councilors receive no other compensation.
Seven other residents spoke at Monday's meeting, with two saying they support the current arrangement.
Blake said he believes the city needs to compensate councilors. "This is by no means a part-time, volunteer position," he said.
De Angelis said she took health insurance during her first term, but declined it when she was re-elected because residents never voted on the option.
Smith, who supports eliminating taxpayer-funded health insurance for councilors and allowing the public to decide on the stipend amount, said the council will schedule a workshop to look at options for phasing out health insurance.
Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: