Tompkins explains position on ending council health insurance and his decision to accept health insurance

By Ken Tompkins

During my campaign, I focused on ways in which to reduce the city’s financial footprint and save tax payers’ money.

One way was to reduce or eliminate the health care benefits and insurance opt-out payments for part-time elected officials and part-time political appointees (like the civil service commissioner).

On Monday, January http://southbuffalonews.comhttp://southbuffalonews.com, 20http://southbuffalonews.com6, the Niagara Falls City Council passed two resolutions. The first resolution, which defined city employees not included under the collective bargaining agreement as full time employees, was unanimously passed.

The second resolution, which was to eliminate the health care benefit for part-time elected officials and political appointees, narrowly passed 3-2.

As such, new council members elected or part time commissioners appointed after January http://southbuffalonews.com, 20http://southbuffalonews.com6 are not eligible to enroll in the city’s health care plan or to take opt out payments in lieu of coverage.

I believe this is a step in the right direction for this fiscally strapped city. As Chairman Andy Touma noted during the vote, we have to start looking at all entities and ensure that we are saving money. Currently, the insurance coverage offered cost approximately $2http://southbuffalonews.comK a year for family coverage and around $7.6K for single coverage. This is only expected to rise. New employees contribute http://southbuffalonews.com0% of the premium cost.

If a council member chooses not to accept the insurance coverage, he or she may receive a cash sum of approximately $4K (single) or $http://southbuffalonews.com0K (family) for opting out of the program. Let’s do the math: If all five council members and part time appointees were to accept either the buyout or the insurance coverage, the cost per year would span between $50K (if all eligible only took the buyout) to $http://southbuffalonews.com25K (if all enrolled in the family plan).

This is a small amount compared to other city expenses. However, as we continue to lose revenue while our overall costs increase, in the future, this savings will become more significant to tax payers. This is especially true when added to other costsaving measures. Already, this resolution applies to the civil service commissioner post.

Many people have asked me directly why this program only applies to officials or appointees elected after January http://southbuffalonews.com, 20http://southbuffalonews.com6.

In writing this resolution, I worked with the corporation counsel office who advised that any changes to compensation could have legal ramifications. In other words, those who were elected to office or appointed prior to this date could expect this as part of their compensation. I understand this perspective, which is why the resolution was presented effective from this date forward.

I respect Councilmen Ezra Scott and Charles Walker for their arguments against this plan. Both gentlemen did bring forth valid points about whether or not this would discourage individuals from running for office.

I respect that while this is considered a part-time job, the obligations are likely to be full-time. Again, I still believe this is a calling, one that you choose to accept regardless of the compensation offered.

Now, as many of you know, this was no longer as easy a resolution for me to bring forth as it was during the campaign. When I was running for office, I had insurance and had no intention myself of accepting the buyout. However, the situation suddenly changed four weeks ago. In mid-December, I found out that my family would be without insurance coverage at a time in which it became critical that we had access to a plan. This plan hence became a life boat.

I graciously accept any criticism this decision generates.

Like Chairman Touma, I believe benefits are just one area that is ripe for change moving forward given our city’s financial outlook. I look forward to working with the chairman and the council as we collectively find ways in which to ensure this city is operating efficiently and money is being responsibly appropriated to areas that make a difference in our residents’ quality of life.

Kenny Thompkins, the freshman Niagara Falls council member, has led the charge to eliminate health insurance for future council members.

Kenny Tompkins, the freshman Niagara Falls council member, has led the charge to eliminate health insurance for future council members.

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