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Public will get input on council health benefits

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POSTED February 7, 2013 12:54 a.m.

Any changes to health benefits for elected leaders could soon require a public hearing.

On Tuesday, the Ripon City Council members unanimously agreed to add that part to the policy regarding their health care compensation.

Vice Mayor Chuck Winn, who doesn’t receive the health plan – as a retired California Highway Patrol, he gets state compensation – pushed to have the public hearing on any such change, receiving support from colleague Leo Zuber, who also declined the health care plan.

“I think any time there’s an amendment or change (to the council compensation) it should go before the public in a hearing or a meeting,” he said.

When elected, each member can receive a monthly salary – in this case, health insurance – with any such increase based on the growing population.

“That’s hasn’t happen since the ’70s and not likely to anytime soon,” City Attorney Thomas Terpstra said.

 He was given the go-ahead to work on the wording for the amendment to the ordinance regarding compensation.

“The California Government Code is amended to provide an increase in the salary of City Council shall conduct a noticed public hearing and after considering public input, may adopt a resolution approving said increase, or portion of said increase,” said the ordinance that also includes the mayoral selection.

Council, in 1992, initially agreed to receive medical plan as part of their job perks.

The insurance plan has been a sticking point for Winn.

Last spring, he tried to encourage his fellow councilmen to sacrifice their health plan in an effort to save the city money during a tough economy.

He estimated that nearly $62,000 from the general fund went towards the health plan during the past year.

But the city not only bounced back but was back operating in the black.

Winn’s plan was shot down again in December as the new board with Zuber and Jake Parks – they replaced Charlie Gay and Garry Krebbs – voted 4-1 to go with the insurance plan without changes.

Mayor Dean Uecker and Nutt said they were both unaware of the benefits that came with the post when  they were first elected. They were also thankful for the medical plan.

“I had Medicare and my wife was on a private plan,” said Nutt during that December meeting. “But if this city were to go under I would give up my benefits in a heartbeat.”

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