SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Scotch Plains Council passed an ordinance prohibiting the township's part-time elected officials (council and mayor) from receiving health benefits paid for by the township.
During the election campaign last fall, Mayor Al Smith and running mate (now Councilman) Ted Spera ran on a 5-Point Plan "to make Scotch Plains more affordable and prosperous " with point No.1 being to Eliminate Taxpayer-Funded Health Perks for Part-Time Politicians.
In December 2014, the Scotch Plains Council voted to move from a private insurance plan to the New Jersey State Health Benefits plan, under which part-time elected officials are ineligible to receive healthcare benefits. Former Mayor Kevin Glover, who was first elected to the council in November 2006, said that he had accepted health benefits from the township just as his predecessors had done. Glover also said that he was grandfathered in because he had served on the council prior to changes in laws that made part-time elected officials ineligible to receive health benefits from the state-sponsored plan.
Mayor Al Smith, noting that he had delivered on his campaign promise, said in an interview with TAPintoSPF that the new ordinance means that part-time elected officials would also be ineligible to receive benefits from the township if Scotch Plains were to move from the state plan back to a private insurance carrier.
"Right now, we are under the state plan, but we are monitoring the costs to ensure that it is the most cost effective option for the taxpayers of Scotch Plains," Mayor Smith said. "It's possible that some time in the future it might be advantageous to get coverage from a private insurer. If that were to be the case, the only way for the mayor and council to receive health benefits from the township would be to pass a new ordinance."
"Employee health care is a significant cost to the township. The mayor, council and I are committed to finding future cost savings wherever possible," Scotch Plains Township Manager Al Mirabella told TAPintoSPF. "We will look at the costs of private coverage and compare to the state plan to make sure that we get the most cost savings that we can for our employees' health benefits."
Mirabella also confirmed that employees who previously accepted health benefits in the past will not be made to reimburse those costs.