Niagara Gazette

Local News

October 12, 2012

Council asked to drop opt-out payments

Niagara Gazette — A city councilwoman who was criticized for receiving too much money for an insurance opt out earlier this year is now saying she’ll forego future payments and would like her council colleagues to do the same.

Councilwoman Kristin Grandinetti, who was cleared of wrongdoing in January after the Niagara County District’s Attorney’s Office reviewed an overpayment she received for opting out of the city’s health insurance program, has sponsored a resolution calling for the elimination of opt-out payments for all council members effective Jan. 1. 

In her resolution, Grandinetti cites the city’s “dire circumstances with regards to the 2013 budget” as the primary motivation for presenting the proposal. Her resolution calls on the council, “in the spirit of teamwork,” to approve the elimination of their opt-out payments, arguing that it will “generate a sizable savings for the city.”

The move comes as the city is grappling with severe financial constraints, largely due to a lack of incoming revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino. Mayor Paul Dyster postponed his 2013 budget presentation last week, citing a need for more time to put together a spending plan under what he has previously described as potentially devastating circumstances for city employees and taxpayers alike. 

“I think that it is symbolic to the community that we are willing to take a hit ourselves,” Grandinetti said Thursday, referring to her resolution. 

City workers, including council members, are able to “opt out” of the city’s health insurance plan. In doing so, they are allowed to receive “bonus” payments which are offered as incentives to reduce the number of enrollees and to cut overall insurance costs.

Grandinetti, a school teacher, receives her health insurance through the Niagara Falls School District. Earlier this year it was revealed she received nearly $10,000 for opting out of enrollment in the city’s family insurance plan when she should have received a payment of a little more than $3,500 as a single individual. 

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