Lifetime health benefits for Amherst elected officials under scrutiny

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – A move in Amherst to stop elected officials from being able to hold on to lifetime health care benefits was rejected Tuesday night.

Town Board member Mark Manna says there would be an immediate savings of $50,000 to taxpayers and points out that most town employees no longer have their healthcare benefits paid for life. He feels the same should hold true for a few elected officials who are still covered when they retire.

“Tonight I’m attempting to slam the door on this extravagant lifetime health care benefits that certain elected officials still enjoy,” Manna said.

The town supervisor, clerk and the highway superintendent, as well as their spouses, still enjoy the perk.

“The taxpayers of Amherst shouldn’t have to bear this expense anymore. It’s completely out of whack with what the private sector allows, and it’s time in Amherst to stop it,” Manna said.

Supervisor Dr. Barry Weinstein says he’s in favor of that, but believes other benefits might have to be enhanced to attract the best people to these high elected positions.

He explained, “Because if we start to take away all their benefits, and their salaries are too low, we’re not going to be able to attract qualified candidates.”

Manna wants the changes to happen immediately.

Weinstein says it wouldn’t be fair to Highway Superintendent Bob Anderson, who would qualify for the benefits after his second term. Town Clerk Marjory Jaeger is too young to qualify, and Weinstein gets his benefits from Erie County. The supervisor says the savings to the town would be minimal.

“He says it’s going to save a lot of money, and in the next 19 years it’s not going to save a penny,” Weinstein said.

Manna countered, “I hope my colleagues don’t choose political patronage and gifts to their fellow Republicans instead of loyalty to the entire Town of Amherst.”

Manna’s resolution failed in a 3-2 vote. The issue will instead be sent to committee, which will examine salary and benefits for all elected officials.

If elected officials lose their lifetime health benefits, only Amherst Police would remain having those benefits paid by the town.

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