By Frank Lewis
November 5, 2013
PDT Staff Writer
After giving City Council an income tax increase, Portsmouth voters have now given members of City Council a raise, which carries with it the removal of Council’s health care benefits previously provided by the city.
Council members are paid $600 per year while the President of Council is paid $1,000 per year. The total, counting all Council members, is $4,000 per year. Tuesday voters increased their annual pay from $600 to $5,000. With the new pay scale, Council members will lose their health benefits with an insurance cost potential of $113,825. This means if Council members want the benefits package, they will have to pay for it themselves.
“That brings us in line with other small councils in which the council is part-time,” First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson said. “We can’t be compared to Cincinnati. We can’t be compared to Columbus. Our comparison is more like Ironton, Chillicothe and even New Boston, none of which offer health insurance.”
Johnson said the reason Council members were given health insurance in the ’90s was that Council was reluctant to go to the voters to raise their pay which had not been raised since 1928.
“The trade-off here is to greatly benefit the city,” Johnson said. “The insurance cost for a single individual runs around $7,500; and a family policy costs the city in a range close to $18,000. That’s a lot of money.”
Johnson said currently only three members of City Council have health insurance policies through the city. One has a family plan and two have single coverage. However, Johnson said, with each election, new members can drastically change the amount of benefit packages. Now, with the passage of the pay increase and the removal of the health insurance, that will have no future affect.
“The insurance is nice, but most of us have access to our own insurance,” Johnson said. “The down side to my having insurance is that I go to the VA, and the VA bills the city’s health insurance. So far this year the city has paid out $20,000 for $7,000 in premiums for me. The insurance company is losing money on me big time. And that costs the city.”
Johnson called the vote a win-win for the citizens of Portsmouth. The final vote count was 729 for the pay raise to 630 against the pay raise.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.