WARREN CITY COUNCIL Proposal targets health, life insurance benefits

Elimination of the coverage can't occur during an official's term.
WARREN -- Legislation before city council would eliminate health and life insurance benefits for members of the body and its president beginning next year.
Councilmen Alford L. Novak, D-2nd, Robert Holmes III, D-4th, and Gary Fonce, D-at large, sponsored the legislation to eliminate the coverage for the 10 council members and council president beginning Jan. 1, 2004. Under law, such a change can't occur in the midst of an officeholder's term.
A similar ordinance was rejected by a previous council in 2001.
The legislation is on the agenda for tonight's regular council meeting.
Fonce also has requested legislation that would require the benefits of other city elected officials to match those of the contract approved last month with the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees, the city's largest union. That legislation hasn't been drafted.
That contract called for the workers to make copayments for health insurance. The legislation would affect the mayor, law director, auditor and treasurer.
'Lead by example'
"The administration has said they're looking to the unions for cooperation to help absorb the costs for rising health-care costs," Fonce said. "You don't go to the workers until the leadership does it first. I believe you should lead by example."
That point also was cited in a fact finder's report regarding the firefighters' contract. The fact finder suggested that management take the lead in making a contribution for health care. The report supported the firefighters union's position of not paying a contribution.
Fonce initially hoped to pass the legislation before the filing deadline for the May primary, which is next month. But Greg Hicks, law director, said at a finance committee meeting Tuesday that a change requiring a copay could be done during an officeholder's term, so Fonce said he'd like to see the legislation passed as soon as possible.
Income tax collections
Finance committee members also heard an update from the income tax department. Tom Gaffney, income tax administrator, said the department plans to concentrate on rental property owners, attorneys, real estate agents, beverage and food wholesalers and insurance agents to ensure they're paying city income tax.
The department also will target tax delinquencies and try to ensure that employers are completing W-2 forms correctly.
"We're really going to concentrate on rental properties," Gaffney said. "I think there's a lot of abuse in that area."
The city's tax amnesty program, which ran from October to mid-December, garnered $207,000 so far, he said. That's of the $271,000 identified as owed by people who applied to participate in the program. The remaining payments must be made by April 15.
Participation included 373 taxpayers, Gaffney said. Most of those were taxpayers who already had been determined to be delinquent in payments. About 10 percent of the participants had never filed city income taxes, he said.

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