To the editor: Salem City Council President Mickey Weaver's series of letters to the editor on the fringe benefits package of Salem's city bargaining units have done more to validate my call for change at Salem City Hall than maybe she intended. Regarding the city's employee health care premiums, for instance, Ms. Weaver acknowledges that the national average of private sector employee contributions to premium is 31 percent, with a $2,000 deductible. Yet she admits that Salem's new health care plan will rise to only 11 percent of premium with a net employee deductible of $200. Is this what she calls "comparable" to the private sector?
What the council president conveniently neglects to mention, however, is that while the city's new employee health premium has been reduced from $20,580 to $15,168, the deductible on this plan will rise to $6,000 per employeewith all but $200 to be absorbed by the city, i.e. the taxpayers. So, city employees will pay a slightly higher premium percentage, but on a much lower overall premium cost, resulting in their paying essentially the same net dollar amount as they did prior to the new contract. Meanwhile, the city will bear the down-side risk of absorbing up to $6,000 in deductibles per city employee. This makes the city's health care plan still hugely expensiveand much, much more generous than what all the rest of us have in the private sector. In fact, by applying the national private sector average 31 percent of premium and $2,000 deductible, Salem's new health care plan is some $300,000 more costly than comparable private sector plans. How many streets could be paved with this sum of money? How many more police officers could we bring on line, with a much needed beefed up drug task force? In the final analysis, the council president's "concessions" are nothing more than a shell game. Just as with her non-existent pension plan "concessions," her supposed health care "concessions" are merely offset by a city "pick-up" in deductibles. Any notion that there are "huge" savings to be realized is just an illusion and Mickey Weaver should know better. It's no wonder that nobody at city hall want an independent performance audit. Think of what else we might uncover.
David W. Johnson, Salem