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Oak Harbor mayor will see benefits reduced

Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley’s benefits will shrink in just over a year.

Members of City Council shot back at his proposal to eliminate health insurance coverage for all elected officials with a resolution that will only affect the mayor’s benefits.

The council unanimously approved the resolution during Tuesday’s meeting. It eliminates elected officials’ eligibility to participate in the city’s high-deductible health care plan and prevents the city from paying for medical premiums for dependents of elected officials.

Councilman Rick Alm-berg’s motion, proposed during the previous council meeting, wasn’t made in time to affect next year’s health coverage.

City Administrator Larry Cort explained that the enrollment period just ended, so the change will go into effect for 2015.

The resolution only affects Dudley for now, though it eliminates an option for all future elected officials.

In an interview after the meeting, Dudley said the council’s actions weren’t about saving the city money.

“It’s a way for them to play games and mess with Mayor Dudley,” he said.

The mayor, Almberg explained, was the only elected official to participate in the high-deductible plan; Almberg said the council members who participate in the city’s health insurance elected to enroll in a version that’s less expensive to the city.

Employees who opt for the high-deductible plan are compensated with a yearly stipend that’s placed in a healthcare savings account for medical expenses.

For an employee with a spouse — among them the mayor — the amount is $6,450.

Dudley said his enrollment in the high-deductible plan costs the city an extra $280 a year, as compared to one of the other plans he could have chosen.

As the only full-time elected official, the mayor was the only elected official eligible to have a dependent’s insurance premiums partially funded by the city.

“This did not seem right to me for the elected officials to get that kind of benefit,” Almberg said, “nor did it seem right that elected officials should have spousal benefits ... 75 percent paid for by the city.”

The debate over the issue came up after Dudley proposed eliminating health care benefits for all elected officials and cutting elected officials’ salaries — including his own.

The council rejected that proposal.

Almberg criticized Dudley for signing up for a benefit that the council took criticism to preserve.

“Perhaps the Whidbey News-Times could have a new article in there where the headline says, ‘council saves mayor’s bacon,’” he said.

 

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