Yorkville Mayor Gary Golinski figures the City Council should discuss whether to continue offering elected officials city health benefits, which could cost the city about $100,000 this fiscal year.
“My feeling is that we have a great group of aldermen,” Golinski said. “These benefits were approved in 2007, so you can’t really fault anyone who chooses to take them.”
Details released Monday—after a Freedom of Information Act request for the information—show that some officials who have repeatedly advocated for cutting city spending also chose to use the city’s medical benefits when given the option this spring.
Of the 11 eligible officials, those receiving medical, dental and vision insurance from the city are City Clerk Beth Warren and Aldermen George Gilson Jr., , Larry Kot, Marty Munns, and .
Aldermen each are paid about $6,000 annually but could more than double their compensation depending on what health plan, if any, they choose. The city’s is about $500 a month for a single plan and $2,000 a month for a family plan.
The annual insurance expense is similar to a recent cost-savings plan but pales in comparison to other city costs. For example, by laying off four employees and outsourcing their engineering services. At one point, City Administrator Bart Olson projected the for the fiscal year that ended April 30.
But, city leaders for infrastructure debt payments with the sales tax increase of one percentage point.
Meanwhile, the number of elected officials choosing to take city medical benefits has increased since it became an option in May 2007.
Former Mayor Valerie Burd opted for city health benefits from May 2007 until the end of her term in April, which cost the city a total of $68,490, according to information released Monday. Similarly, former Ward 1 Alderman Wally Werderich and current Ward 3 Alderman Marty Munns both accepted city health coverage since it became an option at a cost to the city of $47,712 and $65,090, respectively.
Former Alderman Robyn Sutcliff used city health benefits during three fiscal years for a total cost to the city of $38,698. But she said she didn’t realize how much it cost the city.
“I could have just kept my husband’s coverage,” Sutcliff said. "... Some people don’t have options. I don’t blame them for using it; you need insurance.”
She encouraged current elected officials to reconsider offering such coverage in light of the city’s financial troubles. But, she said the city’s financial outlook was much rosier in 2007 when the benefits were approved.
“It was just another perk that they thought would get qualified candidates,” Sutcliff said. “At that time, you had to beg people to run for City Council.”
Kot, , said he wasn’t on the board for the 2007 vote and didn’t receive health benefits when he served as alderman from 1997 to 2005. He’s served with the Illinois State Police for more than 25 years.
“If it wasn’t the city contributing to my health benefits, it was going to be the citizens of the State of Illinois,” Kot said.
Meanwhile, Ward 4 Alderman Diane Teeling used the city’s dental and vision insurance for two years for a total cost to the city of $2,005. She said she brought the issue up at a City Council meeting and discontinued her coverage after getting the renewal information in April.
“It just made me think: ‘I wonder how much this costs,’” Teeling said.
For his part, Golinski said he never used city benefits as an alderman or, more recently, as mayor.
“Even though it would have saved me a couple thousand dollars each year, I never wanted to put that burden on the taxpayers,” Golinski said. “In fact, I don’t even (request) reimbursement for mileage if I have to go out of town for a meeting. I get paid $11,000 a year; I use that money to cover any expenses I have associated with the job.”
A listing of the city's insurance costs per elected official is attached to this article as a PDF. A listing of the city's costs per fiscal year is available here, while details on the FOIA request are available here.