LAKE PLACID - The village board has voted to do away with health insurance benefits for trustees.
The only trustee getting health insurance now is Jason Leon, and he has filed paperwork to get insurance through the Lake Placid Central School District, where he works at the elementary school. Longtime Trustee David Jones, who was voted out in March, also received health insurance through the village.
The insurance is the same as the village's full-time employees get, with the village contributing 80 percent and the recipients paying the other 20 percent. It can cost $5,800 for a single plan and up to $28,000 yearly for a family plan, Mayor Craig Randall said at Tuesday night's board meeting.
"It was a very disproportionate program," Randall said. "This is the time for us to eliminate this practice. It's one more way to relieve some burden on our taxpayers."
Trustee Zay Curtis, who made the motion to get rid of the benefits, said he wants to "stop this from being a job people can try to get where they can get benefits and health insurance they can't get anywhere else."
Trustee Art Devlin suggested allowing elected officials to get village health insurance if they pay for it. He voted for Curtis's motion, however, calling this "something we can address later."
Leon said he worried getting rid of the insurance might mean only "retired individuals with businesses" will run for office. Leon is the only board member now who isn't either retired or in the hotel business.
"It might more or less block out a younger demographic from running," Leon said.
Randall, Curtis and Devlin voted in favor of the change; Leon abstained. Newly elected Trustee Peter Holderied was absent, but Curtis said Holderied supports getting rid of the benefits.
Randall, Curtis and Devlin also don't take a salary, as they said they wouldn't when they ran for office on the same Republican ticket in 2009. Holderied has also declined the stipend, which is budgeted as $6,800 for the mayor and $5,456 for trustees.
Leon said Tuesday night, after the meeting, that he didn't know trustee health insurance was going to be brought to a vote that night. He said he had only had a conversation of less than a minute with another trustee about it beforehand.
"The way it was handled tonight, it was completely by surprise," Leon said. "It appears to be par for the course with this board."
Leon repeated his fear that getting rid of compensation for trustees will make it difficult for younger people with full-time jobs to take part.
"I don't want to come across as protecting my own interests," Leon said. "I'm going to have health insurance. I'm looking out for anyone in the future who might be in a similar situation I was in, who could contribute tremendously to the community, being ... dissuaded from doing so (by) not being able to be compensated even for a little bit of their time."
The board discussed doing away with trustee health insurance in 2008,