SARATOGA SPRINGS – City officials on Tuesday approved a resolution adjusting a decades-old ordinance, so that departing Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan and future members of the City Council who have served 10 consecutive years and reach age 55 can receive city-sanctioned health benefits for the balance of their lives.
The City Council approved the resolution in a 4-0 vote that was introduced by Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton.
Madigan recused herself and left the council meeting room while the matter was being considered.
The decision only effects Madigan presently. But it will also be in play for future commissioners and mayors.
City Council members’ yearly salaries of $14,500 are too low to qualify for the state retirement system.
An the eyes of the state retirement system, city council hours are measured as less than minimum wage, which is $12.50 an hour.
“If the city council had been making minimum wage, we probably wouldn’t be having this problem,” Dalton said.
But Dalton said after the meeting she hopes future councils remove the benefit because she said it shouldn’t be a motivator for public service in her view.
The handful of people who have qualified for the benefit to date should be grandfathered, she said.
On the other hand, council salaries should be adjusted to minimum wage or more, Dalton said.
The action amended the city’s ordinance established that guarantees health insurance for life for retirees who served 10 straight years on the council.
The City Council on Dec. 6, 1993 approved benefits entitling the mayor and commissioners participation in individual or family health plan coverage of the city’s primary indemnity health insurance program.
In addition, the city pays 100% of the cost of health insurance for all retirees and their dependents.
Prior to the vote, city resident Kristen Dart, who served on the Saratoga Springs police collaborative, said she disagreed with the resolution.
While health insurance should be a human right, and Madigan had served the city well, including her maintenance of low taxes, Dart said laws should be changed in the country to make sure that everyone has health insurance.
To change rules for one person appeared to be an injustice, the speaker said.
“I don’t think that we should make policy decisions that have long-lasting effects based on one person,” she said. “If we’re going to debate changes like that, we’re going to have to prepare to make changes like that in the future when our minimum wage employees have those same issues.”
Contract reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.