In Union County Freeholder chairwoman Scanlon’s reorganization speech titled “The Right Priorities” (a copy can be found on the county website) she stated “I am clearly family oriented and for many, our family and children remain a foundation of support”. This appeared to be a feel good initiative for the county until we found that she actually meant she is oriented toward just the families of the county employees.
At the Freeholder meeting of February 10 an ordinance was introduced to give 650 county employees and their family’s free health care for life. No co-pay, no deduction, totally free. And we certainly know who will be paying for that extravagance. This was to say the least very disconcerting for us beleaguered taxpayers.
At the next freeholder meeting on February 24th — under threat of being thrown out of the meeting — I stood up at the microphone and told them this was wrong on all sorts of levels. In the previous meeting when asked what this would cost the taxpayers, they had no idea. In the second meeting they still had no idea. Yet the freeholders all voted unanimously to give 650 county employees free health care for life.
We wanted to know just what the rush was since they voted without knowing the cost. Immediately after the vote the rumor was that two employees retired with this free lifetime benefit so maybe it was for a nice farewell bonus to those special two.
This was also an illegal vote. At least two freeholders have multiple relatives on the payroll. So they voted to give their relatives this largesse. That is a conflict of interest. But the illegality didn’t phase any of them in the least. Plus they have this planned that the health cost is actually allowed outside the mandated 2% cap on the budget so the taxpayers aren’t getting any relief in that direction.
The county administration noted that the free lifetime health benefit is due to the employees having received no raise for 3 years. In the past 3 years the freeholders proudly proclaimed that they were holding the line on personnel costs. However, despite this, the county budget still went up 18% or $38 million, which to me is still a fiscal failure.
Somehow they just don’t understand that in the private sector many people haven’t received raises for years, had to pay up to 50% to 100% of their health insurance costs, even got laid off and paid into COBRA that only lasts 6 months. Their munificence is out of place in this economy.
One last point is that the last time something similar happened was 3 years ago when they gave about 150 employees early retirement with free health care for life included. The county proclaimed they saved $9 million. When the state reviewed it they said the county actually cost the taxpayers $10 million. This appears to be another financial blunder, one that the taxpayers will have to foot the bill. That’s what they gave us for our lifetime. We should get rid of them all.
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