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Amityville board to collect information as it mulls cutting health benefits for ex-employees

Amityville Village Hall is shown on Feb. 25,

Amityville Village Hall is shown on Feb. 25, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

A controversial plan to cut village-funded health benefits for some former Amityville officials could come to a vote next month.

Village trustees this week asked Deputy Treasurer Jill Cervini to collect information on all former personnel who have taken medical benefits since 1983, when the village board approved what it called "hospitalization insurance" for elected and appointed officials who had served the village and been members of the New York State Retirement System for 15 continuous years. The village currently pays about $100,000 a year for benefits for six former part-time officials.

Mayor James Wandell announced a proposal to cut those payments during budget season this year as trustees struggled to write a spending plan that would keep property tax increases within the state cap while maintaining resident services.

Trustee Dennis Siry initially expressed unease with what he called "changing the rules in the middle of the game" for the six officials, but joined in the 5-0 vote Monday night to collect more information.

He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Some of the six officials are well into retirement age and say the cut would be ruinous for them. "I am very disappointed in the village," said Carol Ketcham, a secretary to the village assessor for 20 years who served until 1998. "I'm retired, I'm on a fixed income, and for them to do something like this."

Others have said they will sue if the benefits are cut, but trustee Nick LaLota, the village's budget officer, said Amityville will move ahead with the proposal and may file a suit of its own to recoup money already paid out.

"We're on very solid legal ground with the actions we're taking, and the village is considering a lawsuit of its own," he said.

Research into the 1983 resolution by village attorney Richard Handler indicates that officials who could be covered by another insurer -- such as those eligible for coverage from another employer or through a spouse's plan -- were not eligible for the village benefits. It is not clear how many of the former officials might fall into that category.

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