(Posted Dec. 7, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
In a split decision, London city council voted to offer health insurance with the mayor’s position.
The vote was held during council’s Dec. 1 meeting. Rex Castle, Megan Douglas, Joshua Peters and Richard Minner voted for the change. Trint Hatt, Lora Long and Brenda Russell voted against the change.
“We need to take care of our top officials,” said Rex Castle, defending his reason for voting “yes” on the measure. He also said the offer of insurance could help to attract quality candidates to the position.
Two other elected positions in London are eligible for health insurance—the auditor, a part-time position, and the law director, a full-time position. Council approved the eligibility for these two positions years ago.
Council first considered extending health insurance coverage to the mayor last fall when mayor-elect Patrick Closser said he intended to dedicate many more hours to the position than the law requires. Closser’s term started in January of this year.
By Ohio Revised Code, a mayor is only required to work 32 hours per year, thereby making it a part-time position. In his first 11 months in office, Closser has logged about that many hours per week. The federal Afford-able Care Act states that employers must offer health insurance to employees who work 30 hours or more per week, however it is unclear whether or not elected officials are considered “employees” under the act.
Council decided to hold off on the idea of insurance for the mayor until Closser had been in office for a year and proven that he had worked at least 30 hours per week. With the year nearly up, Castle introduced legislation last month. The split decision to approve it came on Dec. 1 on the proposal’s third reading, but not before Hatt expressed opposition.
“I don’t disagree that (the mayor) works hard, but it’s money the taxpayers have to cover… and I’m not sure the position warrants health insurance,” he said.
Regardless of who is in the position, Hatt continued, the mayor’s job is considered by law to be part-time.
“It’s hard for me (to approve this) if the mayor is only legislatively mandated to work 32 hours per year,” he said after the meeting.
As for the argument that insurance eligibility could attract quality candidates, Hatt said, “Then offer it to council, too. Council is where everything happens or doesn’t happen.”
To be consistent, council should take an across-the-board look at insurance for all elected officials, Hatt said. He also noted that the fate of the Affordable Care Act is uncertain with the election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency. Even it stands, Hatt said he would argue the definition of “employee” when it comes to elected officials.
With approval of insurance for the mayor’s position, council added $20,000 to its budget for 2017. Hatt opposed the amendment, but voted for the budget as a whole, along with the six other council members. The 2017 budget projects deficit spending of approximately $220,000, down from the $300,000 deficit of 2016. The total budget for the year is $17,473,000.
The next council meeting is Dec. 15.