MUNSTER | The Town Council tweaked an ordinance regarding how much town employees will pay for health insurance after hearing strong objections from the Fraternal Order of Police.
The council last week approved an amendment to the 2013 salary and pay ordinance to protect Munster town employees from an increase in premiums before any pay increases are given next year.
The amendment states a 2.5 percent increase in the amount town employees pay for health insurance will go into effect only “if and when” certified employees receive a salary increase in 2013. The increase in premiums will not be retroactive.
On Nov. 26, the council first took up the issue of raising town employees’ contribution for health insurance coverage from 12.5 percent to 15 percent effective Jan. 1. The goal is to have employees eventually pay 20 percent of those premiums, according to Town Manager Tom DeGiulio.
Monday’s meeting was the second reading of the 2013 pay plan ordinance, which includes details of the health care plan.
Munster police Lt. Kurt Matz, an FOP officer, presented a letter from the Fraternal Order of Police Munster Lodge 147.
“We realize the economy is sluggish and the town has limited funds to use for pay raises and we have been very patient about this,” the letter stated. “However, our members have seen significant decreases in our take-home pay and have struggled just as the town has.”
Matz reiterated the letter’s points during a specially granted address at the regular council meeting. He asked council members to delay charging town employees the extra 2.5 percent for another year.
“We don’t have to get to that magic number of the 80/20 split anytime soon,” Matz said.
He said families’ budgets would suffer because the 2.5 percent premium increase would take money from employees’ paychecks before any pay increases could be given in 2013.
Before Matz addressed the council a second time with permission, Councilman Joseph Simonetto made a motion to accept the ordinance’s original health care proposal.
“I’ve been on the other site of the equation,” he said. “We have to have a solvent fund. There are no cuts in service.”
DeGiulio explained how the health care insurance fund works and said the town has three months of money set aside for health care costs not covered by the insurance.
After Matz spoke again, Councilman John Reed said the plan to increase employees’ health care premium costs before any salary raises could be determined was “very disconcerting.”
“My thoughts are that raises would more than pay for it (the increased premiums),” Reed said, adding that he didn’t like taking money from family budgets right off the bat in 2013.
He asked Simonetto to rescind his motion, which the councilman did.
Reed then proposed the amendment council members later approved.