Ross officials debate cutting insurance

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Ross plans to pull about $700,000 from its reserves to erase a deficit in its 2014 budget, but some officials want to find savings down the road by cutting health insurance coverage that commissioners receive through the township.

Ross budgeted $98,250 to pay for commissioners' health insurance coverage in the 2014 proposed budget, according to township Finance Director Dawn Lane.

Commissioner Chris Eyster last month proposed that the coverage be eliminated for new commissioners. “Because the taxpayers don't want it,” he said on Wednesday.

If approved, the ordinance, introduced Monday, would apply to commissioners elected in 2015 and later.

The board will consider the ordinance on Dec. 16, when it votes on the 2014 budget.

The proposed general fund budget of $17.1 million is 8.4 percent more than the 2013 budget. The property tax rate, 2.7 mills, would be unchanged.

At Monday's board meeting, commissioners debated whether some projects included in the budget should be delayed or cut to close the budget gap.

“It just seems like there's too much of an increase in the expenses side,” Commissioner Peter A. Ferraro said.

In the proposed spending plan, about $340,000 has been budgeted for annual debt to build a $3 million public works building to replace the current one on Cemetery Lane that is more than 50 years old, Ross Manager Doug Sample said. Another $340,000 has been budgeted to install a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the municipal building.

Lane pointed out that the fund balance, or reserves, is now at $4.8 million, and that there is money to cover the projects.

Commissioner Daniel DeMarco said the millage rate was raised in 2010 because projections showed more revenue was needed for police hiring and other necessities.

“Taxpayers are expecting a return on money they paid. Either spend it on necessary services or refund it,” he said Wednesday.

The insurance changes, if approved, wouldn't impact the 2014 budget, but some commissioners said the coverage is an unnecessary cost.

Next year's monthly premiums will range from $516 for an individual to $1,651 for a family, Lane said.

Last month, the board voted 5-4 to have Solicitor Bonnie Brimmeier draft an ordinance that would phase out health insurance coverage for the board by eliminating it for new commissioners.

DeMarco, Eyster, Ferraro, Gerald O'Brien and John Sponcer voted for it. Lana Mazur, Grant Montgomery, David Mikec and Grace Stanko voted against it.

O'Brien resigned last month because he was elected tax collector. Eyster and Ferraro, who did not seek re-election in November, will end their terms this month.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662.

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