The city’s property and liability insurance will decrease $100,000 next year, thanks to training and safety initiatives, and, this year, that might save a city code inspector his job.
Of the city’s two code inspectors, Dan Cogan is reportedly the one with less seniority who is slated to be out of a job at year’s end.
But with the savings, Accounts Commissioner John Franck said, he hopes Cogan will keep his job, which is important for keeping city insurance premiums low.
“If we don’t do something proper on a building, somebody gets injured. We get sued,” Franck said.
Risk and safety manager Marilyn Rivers, who was hired in 2003, has been credited for years with lowering premiums and claims against the city. How the savings are used is up to Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins, who hadn’t made a decision on Thursday about it, said Deputy Commissioner Kate Jarosh.
City finance officials usually expect insurance costs to go up when the budget increases.
“Nobody’s insurance really goes down in real life,” Franck pointed out.
Yet the city will pay $516,000 next year — $100,000 less than this year’s premium and $170,000 less than officials expected to spend next year.
“We’re at 2002 prices right now,” Franck said.
That frees up $170,000 in the 2009 proposed budget in a tough year when officials expected to have to lay off up to two dozen workers.
Most of the savings have taken place in insurance costs for the public works and public safety departments, where risk is also higher, Franck said.
The savings will be ongoing, Franck said, because they’re based partly on a good relationship the city has with Trident Insurance. “We don’t look at this as a one-shot deal,” he said.
When Rivers was hired as the full-time manager in 2003, she developed safety and training initiatives — and let the insurance carrier know about them.
That has helped lower the rates.
Since she was hired, the city put in a fire alarm system, made identification badges for employees to wear, and installed a security system, fire doors and emergency lights in City Hall.
She also pushed this year for a new telephone system after some callers to the police nonemergency line couldn’t get through.
“Every driver in the city has been trained in defensive driving,” Rivers added.
Franck noted that while some officials have criticized his giving Rivers a 10 percent pay increase next year, he wishes he could give her more because she has saved the city so much money.
“Marilyn works here for free,” he said, explaining that the savings she has brought to the city more than makes up for her salary. Her proposed salary in the 2009 budget is $65,000.
“If she wasn’t here, we wouldn’t be here with these numbers.”
In 2005, for example, the city paid $800,000 in premiums.
Franck estimated the city would be paying as much as $1 million a year in insurance premiums if it hadn’t done the safety initiatives.
Rivers won a national award last year for her work with the city.
But there is still room for improvement, Rivers said.
Employment practice claims, such as the discrimination suits filed by female police officers and a black public works laborer against the city, are the city’s “Achilles heel” when it comes to insurance, she said.
“If it had not been for some of those claims, we could have achieved greater savings.”
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Categories: Schenectady County