City in a fix over health care

Glendale News Press

CITY HALL — The City Council tonight is expected to approve spending $1.2 million to cover the cost of rising employee health-care costs — a trend that is weighing heavily in contract negotiations as the city continues to grapple with its own budget woes.

Each year, the council approves amendments to employee contracts to cover insurance rate adjustments, which have continued to grow.

"We've been hitting close to double-digit increases every year for several years now," said City Manager Jim Starbird.

The spiking health-care costs come as the city continues to tackle reduced revenues and multimillion-dollar budget deficits, pushing city officials to ask employees to pick up a greater share of the costs.

Negotiations with the city's four employee unions remain ongoing.

"We have put on the table with our various employee groups picking up a bigger share of the health-care costs," Starbird said. "Whether we are able to accomplish something there immediately remains to be seen."

Under their current contracts, members of the largest employee union, the Glendale City Employees' Assn., and the Glendale Firefighters' Assn. will pay for 50% of the increased costs. Members of the Glendale Police Officers Assn. will pay 25% of the adjustment, and members of the Glendale Management Assn. will pay 10%. City executives, who serve at will, will also pay 10%.

During negotiations last year, the city agreed to cover the entire cost of the insurance adjustment, but under the current proposal, employees would revert to picking up a share of the increased costs.

The insurance provisions were part of contracts inked up to four years ago, said Human Resources Director Matt Doyle.

Capt. Chris Stavros, president of the Glendale Firefighters' Assn, said the increases will translate to about $100 more a month in lost income for a firefighter with a family health-care plan.

"It's already a significant portion," he said. "But we will listen to what they have to say and try to help them out."

Jay Kreitz, president of the Glendale Management Assn., also said the union is open to negotiations.

"We're ready to participate with all the other employee associations in reducing costs," he said.

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