Council seeks eligibility for city benefits

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Many residents disagree with the majority of City Council members who want to be made eligible for health and life insurance coverage through the city.

The council last Monday night introduced an ordinance amending parts of Chapter 2 of the Carmel City Code which dictates who is and is not eligible for these benefits.

Currently, all full-time city employees – which include those serving as mayor, clerk-treasurer and city judge – can receive health and life insurance coverage from the city. Council members are not classified as full-time employees and therefore are ineligible.

“There’s nothing within our city ordinances or codes that says whether or not a City Council member is full-time or part-time,” Councilman Ron Carter said. “Frankly you can’t make a distinction on an elected official as to whether they are part-time or full-time. Some of us work many, many more hours than what it would be if we were actually classified as full-time employees, which is 37 and a half hours”

If the ordinance is passed, council members would have the choice of participating in the program and would pay exactly 25 percent of their premiums, with the city picking up the remaining 75 percent. The city currently pays 83 percent of premium costs for other city employees, though that number will continue to descend toward 75 percent over the next few years. Council members also will pay 25 percent more than other employees, and the benefits only would be available while they are in office.

According to Barb Lamb, the city’s director of human resources, an employee-only package for a councilor would cost the city $6,123 per year. A family coverage package would cost $20,960. Life insurance would cost about $90 per participating councilor per year, she said.

The ordinance was sent to the finance committee, which will meet tonight at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall to discuss it. The meeting is open to the public.

Yet there were many in attendance that night, including one council member, who did not want the ordinance to receive further consideration.

Councilman John Accetturo asked that his colleagues withdraw the ordinance from the agenda.

“I’ve received about 30-something emails in the last two days, not a one supporting it,” he said.

Members of the public, like Ila Badger, said the council’s request to increase its overall compensation after cutting programs from this year’s budget is “baffling.”

“Now you are coming and asking for the hard-working taxpayer citizens of Carmel to pay for your personal life insurance and health insurance policies?” she said. “How could you possibly justify that your personal health and life insurance policies are our responsibility?”

Councilman Rick Sharp said the council is looking into why councilors were originally deemed ineligible and if the program “should be opened to the only group of elected officials in the city to which it’s not open.”

This situation is not handled consistently in the county’s other major municipalities. Council members are not eligible for benefits in Westfield and Fishers, and changes are not being discussed currently, spokeswomen for the respective municipalities said. In Noblesville, however, council members do receive health and life insurance coverage from the city.

Sharp added that the proposed change is not a giveaway and questioned why the public has raised so many objections over this compensation increase but not others.

“I can’t help but wonder…where was the outrage when the salaries of every elected official in this city and every department head were raised by some 17-plus percent except for the members of the City Council, who did not take any increase whatsoever? In fact, the City Council has done nothing except participate in the increases for cost of living, except for the last four years when the City Council has denied that.”


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