In his strongest language yet, the mayor of Brightwaters suggested this week that the village might cut health benefits to its five-member board.

Officials called a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the benefits and elicit residents' opinions before voting on the issue Nov. 7, Mayor Joseph McNulty said.

"The village has been ripped apart, and we have to make it whole," he said. "We want harmony in the village." He added that he understands residents' concerns about the issue of benefits, which also applies to him.

Brightwaters' elected leaders began receiving free family coverage in 1997. In 2001, the board extended lifetime benefits to trustees serving 10 years or more. Trustee health benefits cost the village about $72,000 a year, or $66 annually for the average taxpayer, officials said.

Trustees have faced increasing public push-back about the benefits, with residents packing meetings. More than 100 people came to debate the topic Tuesday.

Most who spoke, including Joseph McDermott, 45, said the perk should be relinquished. "If the most important thing is the finances of the village, why is this a debate?" he said afterward. "I don't believe they'll vote it down because why couldn't they do it tonight?"

Some, including Steve Pertusati, 51, say trustees deserve the benefits. "There must be some sort of compensation for people who manage a $3-million budget and are at our beck and call," he said in an interview.

Health benefits are the trustees' only compensation.

McNulty said revoking the benefits would most affect trustee Charles Fischer, who two years ago lost his job. "We're going to do what's good for the village," he said. "You can't run the village on one person."

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