Amityville mulls dropping free insurance

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Amityville trustees are considering ending the village's practice of offering free health insurance to its five-member board and the village justice.

A proposed law, which would affect incoming officials but not those now in office, would insulate the village from an insurance bill that could top $120,000 a year if all the officials decided to accept the benefits at current rates.

The actual cost of insuring the officials is less this year. Numbers provided by village treasurer Donna Barnett show Amityville will pay $84,208.80 for family medical coverage for four officials and individual coverage for another.

Trustee Dennis Siry, insured through his job as a New York City firefighter, declined coverage.

All six officials signed on for dental and visual coverage at a cost of $7,696.80 for the year. Each is responsible for the $20 co-pay for doctor's visits.

The costs represent a small portion of the $1.79 million the village has budgeted for next year for a health plan that covers most village employees. But Mayor Peter Imbert said in an interview, "It's a good place to start."

Health care is one of two major expenses -- employee pension contributions are the other -- driving budget increases in recent years, said Imbert, the vice president of an insurance company headed by his father.

"We have to get a major handle on them," he said.

Future trustees could undo the law with a vote but would have to first hold a public hearing.

Many villages on Long Island offer free or low-cost health insurance for elected officials, some of whom receive salaries for their part-time work. Lindenhurst, Port Jefferson and Farmingdale are among them. Last year, Brightwaters trustees -- who are unpaid and in 2001 extended lifetime benefits to trustees serving 10 years or more -- ended village-sponsored health benefits for elected officials, saving about $72,000 a year.

Some residents praised the move, but others said it would make it hard to attract the village's top talent for the jobs.

In Amityville, where trustees are paid $7,000 a year, Siry said he hoped "anyone running for this position would be running not for the health coverage but to help the village."

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