Sandy Springs approves health benefits for elected officials who pay full cost

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the Chairman of the Charter Review Commission, Gabe Sterling.

Sandy Springs will allow city council and the mayor to join the city’s health insurance plan provided they pay 100% of the premiums at no cost to the city.

Board member Chris Burnett’s proposal was unanimously approved at a meeting on August 3. This followed the rejection of a proposal by Board Member Andy Bauman for staff to obtain more detailed information on the provision of these benefits to elected officials.

Council Member Chris Burnett’s proposal to let elected officials pay for their own health insurance into the Sandy Springs Insurance Plan following a proposal by Council Member Andy Bauman for staff to report more details on the town providing these benefits has failed without any support.

Bauman had referred to a discussion of compensation for elected officials at the July 20 council working session, saying it could remove a barrier to civil service for some residents. He cited the need for diversity among elected officials.

Bauman submitted a comment explaining his reasons for discussing compensation. Mayor Rusty Paul wrote his own comment in response to Bauman, saying that public service is about service.

Before council debated the issue on August 3, city residents, which included members of the Charter Review Board and a mayoral candidate, argued that the council and the mayor were eligible for the benefits. health.

Tricia Gephart, who served on the Charter Review Board, said she was surprised the issue was so controversial.

“If one of our elected officials needs to participate in the benefits program offered, it would be a good thing for him and I would like him to be happy, in good health and able to make good decisions for our community”, she declared.

Tochie Blad, vice chairman of the Charter Review Commission, said the group had only proposed to increase salaries for mayor and council positions. She said President Gabe Sterling told them it was not within the scope of the commission to come up with benefits. In

“A lot of people are not sure about their health insurance. I am in favor of the possibility of offering health benefits. This is a reasonable addition to the pension plan already offered and in which the board participates, ”she said.

Dontaye Carter, who announced his run for mayor in the Nov. 2 municipal election, said he came to the meeting to make sure voices are heard.

“I’ll give you all the credit. What you do well, you do a great job. But the things that you are wrong, you are really wrong. And one of those things is that salary and those benefits, ”he said.

Carter said he listened to Charter Review Commission meetings where several board members spoke.

“I found it offensive to hear people say they were the conscience of the city, knowing that these opinions do not reflect me, that they do not reflect my family, and that they do not reflect the majority of people. people who live in my neighborhood, ”he said.

Mary Baron told the board she spoke to the Charter Review Board in support of the board salary increase.

“I didn’t express this support because I think people should get rich by sitting on the board or making it their only source of income, but rather because I know that inadequate compensation is a barrier for many. people, ”she said.

If the city doesn’t pay people for their time as elected officials, those who don’t have the luxury of giving their time for free won’t be able to serve, Baron said.

When Bauman brought forward his motion after public comment, he said it was a more formal instruction for staff to provide more details. The vote would grant no advantages.

His motion failed when no council member offered to support it. A motion to bring the item on the agenda so that a more detailed set of benefit options, including the provision of health benefits or the payment by elected officials of costs, also died for lack of a second .

Burnett introduced his motion to give council and the mayor the option from January 2022 to purchase health insurance coverage through the city plan. If they chose to participate, they would be required to pay 100 percent of the premium.

Burnett said Bauman’s proposal would create inequalities as some members can take advantage of paid health insurance and others cannot.

“I think it’s important for us to have a level playing field in terms of benefits,” said Burnett.

Council member Tibby DeJulio, who seconded Burnett’s motion, said he was opposed to the cost of providing these benefits estimated at between $ 94,000 and $ 160,000 being borne by taxpayers.

“I think anything that moves the needle on these issues is a good thing. I’m not sure how beneficial it will be, but if it benefits someone, it’s worth it. Even one, ”Bauman said.

He said the most important point is that compensation is a part of a larger discussion on improving citizen participation.

“One of the things we talk about all the time is that somehow it keeps people from running. And it is if it is true, it is disappointing ”, said John Paulson, member of the Council. He said he supported Burnett’s idea.

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About Evelyn C. Heim

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