RIPON – Elected leaders will have the option to continue receiving the health care package that comes with the post.
They voted 4-1 at last Tuesday’s Ripon City Council meeting to go on with the insurance plan without changes.
Councilman Chuck Winn was the lone dissenter. He brought back this item to allow for the new council members to weigh in.
Leo Zuber and Jake Parks now occupy the seats once held by Charlie Gay and Garry Krebbs. Mayor Elden ‘Red’ Nutt was the only incumbent to win re-election.
“Since the previous council was reluctant to discuss this subject, I am sure the new council would like the opportunity to state their position on the issue for the record,” Winn said in his agenda memo.
Incidentally, he and Zuber are the only two on the council opting not to take benefits or stipends. Winn has insurance coverage as part of his retirement package from the California Highway Patrol while Zuber, who retired a few years ago as superintendent of the Ripon Unified School District, pays $425 per month for his benefits.
“This saga started last spring when we were talking about the budget for this fiscal year,” said Winn. “The purpose (for the cuts) back then was that we had been running a deficit and had to offset some of our negative cash flow (in a downturn economy).”
Fortunately, the cuts didn’t come into fruition and Ripon was able to again operate in the black.
“I agree that our finances are in better shape today,” said Winn, noting that nearly $62,000 from the general fund went towards the council health benefits this past year.
His proposal, if approved, would have affected future council members.
“You cannot change the benefits of the current council,” said Winn, who indicated that he approached this item not as a council member but rather as a concerned resident. “You can voluntarily reduce your benefits.”
He added that his issue was in regards to how elected officials spend the taxpayer’s money.
Councilman Dean Uecker and Nutt, meanwhile, believe that the health care package plays a part in luring the top candidates for the post.
Scott Lindsay, who was unsuccessful in his recent bid for a council seat, agreed.
“The benefits are an attractive incentive to open up more people to become involved in the city council,” he said. “If you were to offer a police officer position or a city public works position only to say there were no benefits, you might limit the number of candidates.”
Lindsay, who is a retired police officer, also pointed out that elected leaders who stay in town – included are business owners Uecker and Parks – are more than likely to be approached by the public during their work or off hours.
Parks supports an economic development plan as way to increase the city’s revenue over that of sacrificing council benefits.
“We need to be fiscally efficient,” he said. “That’s true whether you’re in banking, a small business, police, or a high school student.”
Zuber noted that he was often approached by voters on this subject matter during his recent campaign.
Uecker and Nutt were both unaware of the benefits when they were first elected to the post. They’re thankful for the medical plan.
“I had Medicare and my wife was on a private plan,” said Nutt. “But if this city were to go under I would give up (the benefits) in a heartbeat.”