Wauwatosa city employees asked to pay more for health insurance

Published on: 10/16/2009

Wauwatosa — Calling it a way to help taxpayers in a down economy, Ald. Jacqueline Jay is proposing that city employees agree to pay more for their health insurance.

Jay said she is making the request because it isn't fair to ask residents and businesses to pay higher property taxes when city employees pay only about 2% of their health insurance premiums.

"Most public employees have great health care benefits. I know that I pay a lot more for my health care than all the city employees," she said.

Mayor Jill Didier has proposed a 2010 budget that would increase the property tax levy by $300,000, or 0.84%, to $35.8 million.

A public hearing is set for Nov. 3 and the Common Council is expected to adopt a budget Nov. 17.

If the employees agree to pay 2.5% of their health insurance premiums, Jay said, the Common Council could adopt the budget proposal without raising the property tax levy.

A discussion about possible concessions to request from the employee unions is scheduled for Tuesday during a meeting of the council's Budget Committee.

City Administrator Jim Archambo said the 2% figure is roughly accurate, although employee premiums vary based on whether they participate in wellness programs. He said that while the employees pay relatively low premiums, they pay relatively high prescription co-payments compared with other local governments.

To affect the 2010 budget, city employees would have to agree to concessions outside the regular bargaining process. The contracts for all five unions expire in December 2010, which means negotiations will start in 2010 for new contracts starting in 2011, Archambo said.

Didier's budget does not call for any job cuts, but it does require that about 12 positions citywide remain vacant starting in January, Archambo said.

Archambo said he would have to decide how to cut payroll, through layoffs or other methods, if the city does not have at least 12 vacancies.

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