The Town of Babylon is paying full health benefits to a half-dozen of its part-time workers, costing the town nearly $100,000 last year.
The town voted late last year to officially approve the benefits retroactively -- with some benefits going back as far as the 1990s. The employees are: Beth Murphy, senior citizen aide; Nunzio Russo, plumbing board member; Peter Russo, plumbing board chairman; Stephen Gravano, photographic technician; Richard Casey, assistant town attorney; Kevin Snover, assistant town attorney; William Wexler, assistant town attorney; and Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer, who was an assistant town attorney.
Only six out of the eight currently are being paid. Schaffer is now supervisor and Nunzio Russo is applying his $5,000 stipend toward his benefits and paying the rest of the cost.
The benefits cost the town more than $97,000 in 2012 and close to $600,000 since 1991.
Until about 15 years ago, Schaffer said, all members of town boards such as the planning and zoning boards received full health benefits along with a stipend. The town changed its policy, he said, and now board members can either be given a stipend or have that money applied to medical benefits, picking up the remainder of the costs themselves. Board chairs have the same option, except the town pays the rest of the benefits tab.
Benefits are given to the town's 155 part-time workers on a case-by-case basis, he said.
Two of the approved individuals have offices in the same North Babylon building where Schaffer practices law. Wexler, working for the town since 2008, has cost $70,795 in benefits while Snover, who started with the town in 2012, cost $8,553. Snover replaced Schaffer as attorney to the town's plumbers examining board. Schaffer was in that position from when he finished his fifth term as supervisor in 2002 until his supervisor appointment last year, at a total cost of $62,858.
E.J. McMahon, senior fellow at the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a conservative think tank, said local governments should have a consistent policy of not giving benefits to any part-time employee.
"It's hard to believe in times like this that there are still local governments that feel free to hand out gratuities like that," he said. The overall cost "isn't much, but the problem is when you do things like this it's just a symptom of a bigger problem that you're really not that sensitive to your spending levels."
Schaffer said it comes down to fair pay for the job at hand and the employees would get higher compensation if they did not get benefits.