NIAGARA FALLS—With a $7.6 million deficit threatening to strangle funding for popular programs in the city’s budget, Niagara Falls business leader and mayoral candidate John Accardo called for an end to the city’s practice of paying officials and mayoral appointees a cash bonus for not utilizing city health insurance.
Calling it the “Dyster Double Dip,” a reference to sitting Mayor Paul Dyster, on whose watch the costly practice has been encouraged for more than seven years, Accardo vowed substantial change driven from the mayor’s office, if he’s elected.
“So many people in this community are struggling to make ends meet. Too many people are forced to put their health, and their lives, at risk because they cannot afford sufficient health coverage,” said Accardo. “Meanwhile, Paul Dyster maintains the status quo at city hall, and elected officials and mayoral appointees continue to receive this superfluous benefit at taxpayer expense. If I am elected, I vow to end this practice on Day One.”
In most cases, an employee who chooses to not participate in the city’s health insurance program is covered by a spouse’s or partner’s plan. In turn, under the city’s current practice, the employee then will qualify for the cash subsidy. The subsidy approaches $10,000 each year per employee who chooses not to participate. In some instances, the spouse/partner receiving the health insurance, which allows the other to receive the cash subsidy, is also a city employee.
“There’s a word for that: double-dipping. And they’re double-dipping into our taxpayers’ wallets,” Accardo warned at an early-afternoon conference here.
Accardo, whose family has long operated successful insurance industry businesses, including the Accardo Agency, said he found the double-dipping troubling because it was an unnecessary cost center, particularly in a city already under enormous budget stress.
“Niagara Falls has a $7.6 million budget deficit this year,” Accardo said. “That’s where policies like the Dyster Double-Dip have taken us.”
Accardo made clear he would not accept the subsidy himself, and further vowed he would bar mayoral appointees from taking the pricey handout.
More noteworthy still, he said he would veto any budget that included funding for insurance subsidies for Common Council members.
“The taxpayers of Niagara Falls should not be giving a rich subsidy to part-time workers doing a part-time job, and by the evidence, doing it badly,” Accardo said. “It’s time we put our taxpayers first instead of government fat cats.”