The Aurora Town Board voted unanimously Monday night to end health benefits next year for part-time elected officials despite objections from Town Justice Jeffrey Markello.
Markello tried to explain to the board how the value of his health insurance plan was the equivalent of a pay cut.
Markello, who is self-employed, earns about $30,000 as town justice in addition to health benefits worth $13,000.
“It’s an honest philosophical difference of opinion,” he told The Buffalo News after the meeting, referring to the change in policy.
Markello cited a list of reasons why elected part-time officials, like himself and Town Supervisor Jolene Jeffe, deserve health benefits that are not extended to other part-time workers.
Elected staff members do not have union protection, he said. They also work extra hours and deal with angry and frustrated residents. “All elected officials are ambassadors on behalf of our town,” he said.
Councilwoman Susan Friess said the board intends to consider increasing pay during summer budget talks. The board eliminated health benefits so that workers would have pay and compensation of equal value. Right now there is a disparity because the other town justice does not take the same health benefits as Markello.
The board also voted to refinance 14 water system loans, worth about $15 million, that paid for a series of improvements made since 1998. The current interest rates on the loans of about 4.5 percent will go down to about 2 percent, saving the town as much as $1 million.