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Chapel Hill Town Council Gives Itself a Cushy Healthcare Retirement Plan

Look, as a longtime healthcare advocate, I'm for expanding health coverage with innovative solutions. I've suggested many ways government can act and make it possible for ordinary people to have a choice of decent, affordable health plans. However, it seems the only action by government in North Carolina recently is for elected government officials – even elected part-time officials – to give themselves generous healthcare benefits – even after they leave government service.

I'm just blown away by the insensitivity, the irony, the misplaced priorities and the injustice of this sort of action. Last night the Chapel Hill Town Council voted to give its members the ability to stay on the town healthcare plan – subsidized to the tune of 75% of the premium – if they serve two terms on Chapel Hill's part-time town council. These are the same retiree health benefits that full-time town employees have to work 15 or 20 years to qualify for. How about the guys who work harder than just about anyone picking up household trash and hanging on the back of a town garbage truck in 100 degree heat? I'd say they deserve that sort of health plan after twenty years of work. Heck, I'd say they deserve a lot more than that. But for someone who did a couple of terms on the Town Council? Give me a break.

The icing on the cake is that Chapel Hill Town Council members just approved an 11 percent jump in the town tax rate.

I guess the Council figures they are just following in the footsteps of stalwarts like the Town of Cary who last year voted similar benefits for its members. That still doesn't make it right and my prediction is this action will come back to bite the Council in a big way. There are plenty of uninsured folks in, yes, wealthy Chapel Hill who are paying taxes and would love some help affording coverage. There are plenty of people paying through the nose for the only expensive coverage they can find who would love to join the town plan.

The Chapel Hill Town Council can't solve the state's health insurance crisis on its own. As a Chapel Hill resident, I'm fully aware of the limits of Council action. However, they can avoid contributing to the problem by declaring to the public, once again, that "some are more equal than others."

8 Comments

  1. James

    June 11, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks for digging this up. I missed it … and I’m both embarrassed and pissed.

    More here.

  2. Gerry

    June 11, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    I’m out of luck. The policy requires two full terms of office on the Chapel Hill Town Council and I resigned before my second term was up. It also requires applying within 30 days of leaving office and for me it’s been 29 years.

  3. James

    June 12, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Now available for discussion at Orange Politics.

  4. Lauren P.

    June 12, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    How can they get away with this? It is truly an insult to any and every Chapel Hill citizen who’s not on the council. I feel violated and disgusted.

  5. Leigh

    June 17, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    As disgusting as this is, it is not new elsewhere. In the last year I moved here from Greensboro and in Guilford County the comissioners have this same benefit, paying 75% of health insurance for life if they serve 2 terms. Not only that but in late 2004 the commissioners voted themselves a salary increase that brought their part-time salary to $20,000 in addition to free health insurance! I stopped keeping up with it at that time because I was so repulsed so the salary may be more now! Again, this is for a part-time job that automatically comes with perks (travel expenses, free meals, invitations to events, parties etc.). I’m sure there are full-time county workers who do not make that salary. I thought I was moving where the elected officials were different.

    I understand the Chapel Hill town council had the good sense to recind this benefit but I think citizens should remember the 8 that voted for it when they are up for re-election.

  6. Lauren P.

    June 18, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Leigh —

    Believe me, there are a big number of us out here who will NEVER forget. Frankly, I’d be surprised if any of them have the nerve to run for re-election after pulling a fast one like they did. I for one will be ready and eager to remind voters come next November.

  7. Jeff

    September 15, 2008 at 9:06 am

    The 11% tax increase is not the entire truth. I just calculated the actual tax increase for myself and 13 neighbors. I was lucky, mine only went up 72%. Two neighbors saw increases of 98% with a third at 97%. Why – we live in the Durham county portion of Chapel Hill and were reappraised by Durham County in 2008 while Orange Counties will not be reassessed until next year (2009). The City Council not only knew about this massive increase, but planned on it during their budget process to hold down the tax increase for Orange County residents.

  8. […] in the current national health debate, Czajkowski’s strategy is puzzling. He did vote against extending lifetime health insurance benefits (a decision later reversed) to former town council members last year, but […]