Lebanon Establishes Health Insurance Savings Plan for Highway

(Town of Lebanon, NY – March 2012) Lebanon town officials will meet Monday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Office, 1210 Bradley Brook Road in the hamlet to discuss code enforcement and town justice updates with local officials.

Town officials are requesting Code Enforcement Officer Matt Van Heusen give the board an annual report of activities and permits in 2011, update the Lebanon Town Board on changes in the state fire and building code, discuss current code enforcement procedures and address recent complaints.

Town officials are also requesting Justice John Bartlett appear to explain the citations by the state Office of the Comptroller about improper reporting for the months of October, November, December and January.

Town Supervisor Jim Goldstein reported receiving a letter from the Office of the State Comptroller Justice Court Fund Feb. 18 that informed him of this reporting problem and was instructed by the OSC to suspend all compensation of the town justice until the matter was verified as resolved by the OSC.

Goldstein reported to the board Feb. 13 that a conversation that day with Justice Bartlett indicated that he had made a computer reporting error and had corrected the matter, but a discussion with the Office of the State Comptroller Feb. 29 indicated that the matter had not been corrected and that they had added the January report to the list of months unaccounted for.

Goldstein spoke to Bartlett March 3 and learned the problem was thought to be a computer problem; Bartlett said he would report the resolution to the town board at the March 12 meeting.

Goldstein said he has deposited checks from Bartlett for most of the months in question and received late reports in some cases, but lacks familiarity with the computer reporting system to comment further on what the problem may be.

The letter received from the OSC indicates that the report, certification or remittance, if any, is due by the 10th of each month, and a report must be sent even if there was no activity in that given month. The OSC says that in the event that a justice fails to properly account for any money received by such justice, the chief fiscal officer of the town will be notified.

Goldstein said the letter was dated Feb. 14; he said the town does not suspect any funds are missing but is beginning its annual internal audit of all town officials who handle money. The Internal Audit Committee, made up of Councilors Carol King and Lois Hartshorn, will audit the records of the town supervisor, town justice, town clerk/tax collector and code enforcement officer, make recommendations and report their findings to the town board.

Goldstein said that the reporting problems with the OSC have delayed OSC billings to the town for 2011 and have thus delayed the town being able to file its annual AUD with the OSC, which is normally due at the end of February. The town has filed for an extension for the end of April.

In other business

Lebanon town board members approved a health insurance plan for highway employees in 2012 that is expected to save the town $2,025 while maintaining current coverage at its Feb. 13 town board meeting in Randallsville. Town officials also authorized the changeover to new push-to-talk cellphones that are expected to save the town thousands of dollars in radio replacement costs.

Town officials committed to continuing the practice of maintaining a $2,600 health savings account for each participating highway employee so they do not have to pay any additional costs out-of-pocket for the higher deductible plan that saves the town money.

Highway Superintendent Alex Hodge objected to the decision by the town board to keep each account at the $2,600 level rather than contribute an additional $2,600 each year to each account, which he said was his understanding of the original plan.

Goldstein said that the board’s goal was to continue the practice of ensuring that employees do not have to pay any share of individual health care costs as long as possible and cited that most other towns are having to require a local cost share.

He noted that the prior year’s resolution committed the town to keeping the HSA amount for highway employees at $2,600 annually but said his interpretation was that it was not a commitment to give each highway employee $2,600 each year for the HSA. Town officials agreed to base contributions on how much the employees had used in the prior year and ensure each account was back up to $2,600.

Goldstein told town board members that the proposed resolution would save the town $2,000 but if they chose to honor Hodge’s request, the total cost to the town would be an additional $5,000 in costs rather than any savings, which would equal 1 percent of the town tax levy and would create a situation where half of the tax cap amount allowed by the state under new legislation would already be committed for next year.

Town officials unanimously approved the resolution maintaining the current benefit over Hodge’s objection.

* Hodge also stated that he had been experimenting with the one-person plow system and was confident by next fall he might be able to eliminate the seasonal employee wing operator positions and would be requesting the town board consider raises for the three drivers, given this is what the county highway department did when it went to the single-operator plow system.

Goldstein said that with the savings from the health insurance plan and anticipated savings from eliminating or reducing seasonal highway workers, this could be manageable within the current budget in light of the fact the town board also granted all highway employees a 50-cent-per-hour increase in 2012 and increased Hodge’s salary by $2,000.

* Town officials discussed a planning board appointment but had two applicants, Scott Betts of Reservoir Road and Brian Musician of Musician Road, so town officials agreed, in keeping with past practices, to interview both candidates at the March 12 meeting and choose the candidate they think will best serve the town’s needs at this time.

The town board is looking to fill the vacancy created by Sam Campbell’s retirement from the planning board by appointing someone with a strong agricultural background.

* Town officials authorized payments of fire and ambulance contracts for 2012, discussed the status of natural gas regulatory issues at the federal, state, county and town level and pending court cases involving towns that have banned natural gas development.

* Discussed the pending Hamilton proposal for creation of a natural gas utility.

* Discussed Internal audit plans for this spring for town officials by the Internal Audit Committee.

* Continue search for Town Historian.

* Set next town board meeting for March 12 at the Town Office at 7:30 pm

* Authorized Goldstein to re-pursue quotes for a possible solar electricity system for the town, given prices have come down in recent years, and there have been more innovations in solar collectors that work in CNY winters.

* Authorized installation of a drop box for law enforcement to leave legal documents for the town justice.

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