March 26 2009 12:00 AM
The Lansing Elected Officials Compensation Commission at its Monday meeting is expected to recommend doing away with the nearly $80,000 in fringe benefits received by the eight member s of City Council.

Bill Castanier, the commission’s vice-chairman, said that a straw vote conducted at the last meeting indicated unanimous support for some kind of elimination of benefits for Council members, which would include medical and dental insurance. Council members are the only part-time city employees who receive health benefits.

Also on the table, Castanier said, is a reduction in the salaries of the Council members. All Council members are paid $20,274, except for the Council president, who is paid $22,279, and the vice president, who is paid $21,068.

Four Council members accept health care benefits and four do not.

Those not making use of the health care are paid $1,800 each year as a sort of "buy-out" for not using the health care. Castanier says the compensation commission wants to eliminate this, too.

Benefits for Council members, according to the compensation commission, break down as follows, in order of expense to the city:

1) At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar: $15,117 for health insurance, $749 dental, $233 life insurance, $89 for disability insurance, $1,216 retirement contribution from the city, $377 workers compensation. Total: $17,781

2) At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries: $12,148 for health insurance, $749 for dental, $233 life insurance, 89 for disability insurance, $1,216 retirement contribution from the city, $377 workers compensation. Total: $14,812

4) Second Ward Councilwoman Sandy Allen: $9,177 for health insurance, $749 dental, $233 life insurance, $89 for disability insurance, $1,216 retirement contribution from the city, $377 workers compensation. Total: $11,841

3) At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood: $5,399 for health insurance, $749 dental, $233 life insurance, $89 for disability insurance, $1,216 retirement contribution from the city, $377 workers compensation. Total: $8,063

5) At-Large Councilman Derrick Quinney: $1,800 in lieu of health insurance, $749 dental, $233 life insurance, $98 for disability insurance, $1,337 retirement contribution from the city, $377 workers compensation. Total: $4,594

6) Third Ward Councilwoman A’Lynne Robinson: $1,800 in lieu of health insurance, $749 dental, $233 life insurance, $93 for disability insurance, $1,264 retirement contribution from the city, $377 workers compensation. Total: $4,516

7) First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt: $1,800 in lieu of health insurance, $749 dental, $233 life insurance, $89 for disability insurance, $1,216 retirement contribution from the city, $377 workers compensation. $4,464

8) Fourth Councilman Tim Kaltenbach: $1,800 in lieu of health insurance, $233 life insurance, $89 for disability insurance, $1,216 retirement contribution from the city, $377 workers compensation. Total: $3,715

Whatever the commission finally recommends will take effect unless City Council votes to reject it.

Kaltenbach, who is not seeking re-election, indicated at the March 5 City Council Committee of the Whole meeting that he agreed that benefits should be eliminated for Council members.

“We're part-time employees,” he said. “Part-time employees don't get insurance.”

Kaltenbach’s opinion is firmly in line with Mayor Virg Bernero, who sent a letter to the commission — which sets pay and benefits for all Lansing elected officials (including the mayor, city clerk and Council) — recommending that new Council members not get city health benefits.

Bernero also recommended a 5 percent pay cut for all elected city officials and changes to the health care, including increasing co-pays for visits and prescriptions.

Bernero, who would not lose his health coverage under the proposal, does take advantage of the city-paid health care, and nets $31,610 in fringe benefits in addition to his over $107,000 per year salary — although, the mayor’s salary has not been increased since David Hollister was in office. Hollister resigned in 2003.

Castanier said that still up in the air is when any benefits changes would take place.

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