The selectmen (Carolyn Sundquist, Bill Marcussen, Lloyd Wood) have refused this year to disclose how much will be spent per employee in 2017 for health benefits. The town’s health insurance provider is Interlocal Trust.
The budget committee voted 4-3 on December 6, 2016, for the personnel administration budget without knowing whether the budget line item of $315,622 for health benefits was accurate or not. Carla Lootens, Helen Hartshorn, Bob Theve, and Carolyn Sundquist voted in favor, while Steve Brinser, Tyler Philips, and John Libby voted against.
At the December 6 meeting, committee member John Libby questioned how he could vote for the $315,622 line item without knowing how it was calculated. “I just don’t know how I can vote,” he said. “I mean, $315,000 is, how do [inaudible] calcu…. I don’t know. […] It could be a good number, it could be a bad number. I don’t know if it’s a percentage of, what? There’s nothing to support [it], we just have a number.”
Carolyn Sundquist stated that the committee members would “have to take my word for it that the calculation is correct.”
This refusal to provide basic information about how tax money is spent on public employee benefits is new. For instance, here is the per employee costs for the 2016 budget, which the selectmen’s secretary, Karen Koch, provided to me last year without squabble.
The selectmen are saying that they are not allowed by law to disclose the per employee cost for health benefits because that would be an invasion of privacy.
Resident Guy Pike contacted Keith Nyhan, the director of consumer services at the New Hampshire Insurance Department, and asked him if revealing per employee costs for health benefits would violate any laws. According to Pike, speaking during public comment at the January 3, 2017, budget committee meeting, Nyhan replied with a quick, “No.”
Tuftonboro town employees do not contribute anything toward their health insurance premiums, unlike employees in the private sector, and are reimbursed for their deductibles and co-pays.
Sundquist, speaking at the December 6, 2016, budget committee meeting, said that the town employees “deserve not to pay anything toward it [health insurance premiums].”
Budget committee Chair Carla Lootens, also at the December 6 meeting, said, “Based on my own experience, whether it be when I was teaching, when I was a psychologist, no matter what other experience I had personally, in other businesses, and the same with my husband — I mean, yes, we’d have our deductible, but we were not ever asked to contribute to a premium. Never.”
Committee member Tyler Philips replied to Lootens, “You didn’t work for me. This is a different world.”
Not requiring public employees to contribute to their health benefits like private sector employees is justified, though, said Transfer Station Supervisor Clay Gallagher at the December 6 meeting. Some town employees “don’t know whether they can fill up their truck with gas to get to work,” he explained. “The way I saved one of my employees was, he was able to get health insurance. Otherwise, he couldn’t have worked here any longer.”
Proposed spending on employee compensation (salary & benefits) would currently be 51% of the total operating budget. However, the budget will not be finished until the end of February, and could still be amended at Town Meeting in March.