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updated: 4/12/2011 10:14 PM

Vernon, Antioch townships may reduce health insurance perk

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Discussions are occurring in Vernon and Antioch townships on having full-time elected officials contribute toward health insurance premiums that have been fully covered by taxpayers.

Speaking before an uneventful 161st annual town meeting Tuesday evening, Vernon Township Supervisor William Peterson said insurance costs were negligible when officials started getting the free coverage roughly 30 years ago.

"We considered (contributions) last year," said Peterson, a retired state senator. "And what we did was raise the deductibles to hold costs down."

Taxpayers spent more than $1 million last year to cover health care benefits for 77 elected leaders in suburban townships, according to a Daily Herald probe.

An investigation of insurance costs for 50 suburban townships showed 29 offered health care coverage at no charge to elected officers who held full-time positions such as supervisor, assessor and highway commissioner.

Vernon and Antioch were in the top 10 for the most taxpayer dollars spent in health care for elected officials in 2010, out of the 50 suburban townships surveyed in six counties. National studies show it's becoming more uncommon for private-sector employers to offer health care coverage at no cost to workers.

Peterson said Buffalo Grove-based Vernon Township plans to survey local schools and municipalities to learn how much employees contribute toward medical coverage costs. He said he expects the Vernon Township board to act next month on a percentage that would become effective in July.

Vernon Township Assessor Gary Raupp's $33,084 in medical coverage was completely funded by taxpayers in 2010. Peterson's fully paid health insurance was $24,096, followed by Highway Commissioner Bryant Schroeder's $20,916.

Peterson said 20 other full-time workers receive free health insurance. Vernon Township Clerk Barbara Barnabee and the part-time trustees do not get gratis medical coverage.

In Antioch Township, talks began early this year on having full-time elected officials contribute toward their health care costs, Highway Commissioner Mark Ring said. The part-time trustees don't receive free insurance.

Ring, whose health care package totaled $15,381 in 2010, said it would be proper to pay a percentage of that expense, particularly in difficult economic times for local governments.

"Lean and mean is what I've always tried to do at Antioch Township," Ring said.

Antioch Township Assessor Heather Kufalk-Marotta received $17,754 in family medical coverage last year.

"Would I have a problem (paying)? Absolutely not," Kufalk-Marotta said Tuesday.

Kathleen Smith received $23,632 in health benefits for free as Antioch Township's clerk in 2010. The benefits exceeded her pay of $23,185.

Antioch Township Supervisor Stephen Smouse received $20,414 in fully paid benefits last year. Records show he contributed $2,628 toward the cost to obtain coverage for a grown child.