JULY 2000 -
An Insurance Loss, A Cola Victory
- Webster, a South-Central Massachusetts town with a population of
16,089, was the emotional scene of heavy Association activity this
Members of that community
asked for help with a ballot question, Question 1, which if voted
favorably at a May 1 town election would have required the town to pay
50% of its retirees health and life insurance premiums.
retirees have always paid the full cost of their premiums while
employees currently contribute 15%, with the town paying 85%. HMO
members pay 10%, the town 90%. The full cost of a retiree’s Medex plan,
for example, is $232.87 monthly.
previously the 50% insurance contribution had been on the ballot and
handily defeated. After an all-out effort by our Association, members
of the Webster Retirement Board, retirees of that town and their
supporters we would like to report a victory. But we can’t. The measure
went down to defeat 1,387 to 937 - only a slight gain over previous
"Put this one in the loss
column," said Association President Ralph White who was not
discouraged. "We gave it our best shot and it just wasn’t winnable at
this time. We’ve always promised that we would give the retirees of
small towns the same support that we give retirees of the large systems
such as the state and teachers. Unfortunately, requiring a town to pick
up a portion of retirees’ insurance can only be accomplished as a
ballot question. We’ll have to try a different strategy next time."
praised the organizers of the Vote Yes on Question 1 drive. Town
Treasurer Dorothy Dabrowski, who is an elected member of the Webster
Retirement Board, and her assistant treasurer, Ellie Doros, headed the
drive at town hall. Board members June Perry and Lou Polletta, along
with retired police chief Paul Minarik, were also key activists.
and her crew were well-organized," said White. There were newspaper
ads, phone banks and several mailings. Some towns are tough to crack
when the issue is required to be a ballot question rather than a town
COLA Win Lifts Spirits
of Webster’s retirees were somewhat lifted on May 8, just a week after
the insurance loss, when Town Meeting voted to accept the new COLA law,
allowing the town’s retirement board to pay full 3% COLAs.
no chances, another full-scale drive was put in motion during the week
leading up to Town Meeting. This time, dealing with voters attending an
open Town Meeting proved to be more compatible than a town-wide secret
ballot. The COLA vote passed with relative ease by a voice vote.
meetings can be tough and contentious, but dealing with reasonable
people face-to-face is much more opportunistic than a ballot. This was
proven in Webster," White noted. "Of course presenting your case before
a city council is even more desirable. However, town meetings are
considered by many to be the truest form of democracy, a fact we just
have to recognize."