Proposal to Decrease City Taxpayer Costs for Health Care Voted Down
Outgoing Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen initiated a public hearing and council discussion this week to alter the salaries and benefits received by future council members.
The proposal suggested, starting in 2020, councilmembers pay a portion of health care benefits they currently receive cost-free and that health care benefits for life be eliminated, while increasing the five councilmembers’ annual salaries from $14,500 to $18,000.
City Council members, upon election, are eligible to receive health care coverage free-of-charge. The family plan cost is approximately $25,000 for each council member, and four members are currently enrolled in some form of a city health insurance plan. For former council members who have served 10 years or more and retire after age 55 – of which there are a small handful – those benefits are received for the duration of their lifetime.
Mathiesen suggested councilmembers receiving city health care coverage pay $4,000 annually out-of-pocket, and that given the rising costs of health care coverage, that the lifetime benefits be eliminated. The measure was defeated 4-1, with Mathiesen casting the lone yes vote.
The recommendation, had it passed, would have amended the City Charter – which sets salaries for the mayor and commissioners. There are no charter stipulations regarding deputies’ salaries, or related to health benefits for council members. Those are periodically set forth by City Council resolution, or through collective bargaining agreements.
Council Adopts $46.1 million Budget for 2018
The council on Nov. 28 unanimously adopted the city budget for 2018. The $46.1 million plan represents a slight increase over this year’s $45.5 million budget.
“I view the 2018 year as a transformative year for the city,” Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan told the council when presenting the plan for vote. “I have high hopes that the new City Council as well as our ever-evolving workforce will be able to tackle several key issues and problems: lowering the city’s health care related expenses, addressing short-term rental concerns, updating parking systems citywide, better using IT to benefit city residents and City Hall itself, (as well as) some land use issues that will be before the next City Council that need to be addressed.”
City Center Parking Garage Seeks Extension
With construction not yet begun due to pending litigation, the Saratoga Springs City Center Authority this week plans to approach the Design Review Commission to seek an extension of an Architectural Review approval, which was granted June 1, 2016 for the development of a multi-level parking structure at High Rock, just east behind the existing City Center.
Next week, a representative of the Hollywood, California based owners of West Avenue Property LLC will meet with the Zoning Board of Appeals. The company has proposed the construction of a mixed-use development adjacent to the Saratoga Train Station consisting of a hotel, townhomes, senior and assisted living residencies and retail stores. The purpose of the meeting is to request a variance of the maximum building height of its hotel – from 50 feet to 56 feet – as well as to seek zoning ordinance relief in build-out requirements for a number of the accompanying buildings.