North Adams Insurance Bill at $500K
Committee Chairman Michael Bloom, left, and member David Bond speak with Councilor Gailanne Cariddi and Administrative Officer Jay Green. Committee member Alan Marden was absent.
"I'm going to be making recommendations over the next few weeks that are going to be very difficult. ... But they need to made," Mayor Richard Alcombright told the Finance Committee on Monday.
Alcombright said he expected to have firmer budget numbers in a couple weeks. Budget woes and settlement talks with the public unions over the insurance issues could mean tapping into the city's more than $850,000 excess tax-levy capacity.
Bringing this year's insurance accounts up to snuff — both the Medical Insurance Trust and the Medex account — will mean dipping into the free cash count.
Several councilors had expressed concern over taking action based on a report that found the city had underfunded its self-insurance accounts for at least several years. Committee Chairman Michael Bloom called for a full audit going back further and moved to have the study referred to his committee last week.
Alcombright said state officials stated their satisfaction with the conclusions of the report by Scanlon & Associates during a conference call on Friday that included Robert G. Nunes, deputy commissioner of the Department of Revenue.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said the city could try to roll costs into next fiscal year with special legislation.
The mayor said the conversation focused on the city's options. It can work on a settlement with the unions for past years but it will have to fully fund this year's account out of free cash or, if there's not enough, into the next fiscal year through special legislation. DOR would be supportive of that, he said.
The total is $500,000 — $400,000 for the insurance fund and another $100,000 for the Medex account. That line item was reduced from $525,000 last year to $400,000 this year. It, too, must be fully funded.
Committee member David Bond asked about the report's recommendations on reconciling head counts and what it meant. Councilor Gailanne Cariddi, who attended the meeting as did council President Ronald Boucher, said rumors had swirled about who was actually being covered by the city's insurance.
"We have gone through the listing on everything," said Business Manager Nancy Ziter. "Nobody is on that listing with Blue Cross Blue Shield that we cannot account for, either being an active employee, a retiree or a surviving spouse ... We can account for everything."
Business Manager Nancy Ziter explains how the city figures enrollment numbers.
Alcombright said he has begun talks with unions about future insurance options but he didn't want to get into settlement talks until the committee was satisfied with the study. The settlement could take any number of forms, he said.
"The employees are looking for an admission that this happened, a fix going forward to know it's being done correctly and something for their pain and suffering over the years, in a sense," said the mayor. "I have no reason to not think they will be reasonable."