Canton Town Council members question change in health insurance contributions

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CANTON — Canton Town Supervisor David T. Button and two other non-contractual town employees have increased their contribution for their health insurance benefits from $10 to $45 per pay period.

Mr. Button said via email that he, Town Clerk Lisa A. Hammond and Town Attorney Charles T. Nash “voluntarily” agreed to increase the amount they have deducted from their paychecks.

Town employees are paid every other week, so their contribution has increased from $20 to $90 per month.

However, some town members are questioning why the increase was not approved by the town board or discussed at a meeting before it took effect in July.

“I’m concerned that this action was taken,” said Councilman Philip K. LaMarche. “It was without board approval or knowledge. It was done behind our backs, as far as I’m concerned.”

Mr. Nash said he told Mr. Button he didn’t care if the contribution was increased, but that “it had to be done right.”

“Per our written policy, only the board and not the supervisor can make (that) change,” Mr. Nash said in an email.

That policy was adopted by the board in 2002, he said.

The issue is expected to be discussed at Wednesday’s town board meeting, 4:30 p.m. in the municipal building, 60 Main St.

Mr. Nash said it may be discussed in executive session.

Town Councilman Paul J. Backus also said the issue was not discussed at any previous board meeting. Mr. Backus serves as deputy town supervisor.

“I’ve heard rumblings about this,” Mr. Backus said Monday. “It hasn’t been discussed at a meeting, so I don’t know much more than that.”

Referring to the increased contribution, Town Councilman James T. Smith said, “Usually, something like that is a board’s decision.”

“If they voluntarily offered, I don’t know what triggered it,” Mr. Smith said.

Meanwhile, Mary Ann Ashley, a former village mayor, filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Sept. 26 that seeks information about the town’s health insurance plan, including who is covered and how much they contribute to the plan.

Ms. Ashley is running against Mr. Button in the Nov. 7 race for town supervisor. Mr. Button, a Republican, has held the seat for the past 16 years. Ms. Ashley is running on the Independent line and has been endorsed by the Canton Democratic Committee. “I want to do my homework in the event that I get elected,” Ms. Ashley said. “The budget is starting and I’m trying to educate myself on expenditures. I’m curious about health insurance, how much the town is paying and who is paying what.”

Ms. Ashley said she feels it’s important for the town to have a written policy that specifies the benefit package for non-contractual employees.

“The village has a written policy that outlines those things,” she said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Mr. Button is also expected to release the town’s proposed 2018 budget. The board will likely set a date for a public hearing on the budget.

The board is also expected to discuss the code enforcement officer position vacated by Russell B. Lawrence IV. He left to take the code enforcement job in the town of Oswegatchie.

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