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Healthcare Costs Take a Bite Out of Brick's Budget

Township will pay over $11 million this year

The township will pay over $11.3 million in health insuance premiums this year, according to a proposed budget.

That figure – $11,386,853, to be exact – represents about 13 percent of the entire operating budget for the township, according to a spending plan proposed by Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis.

The mayor has said that despite having fewer employees on the township's payroll – he has proposed cutting an additional 77 workers this year – health insurance costs have risen rapidly and represent one of the largest items in the budget.

As recently as 2009, the township spent $9,081,700 on its employee group health policy according to that year's municipal budget, over $2 million less than the 2012 budget anticipates.

Business Administrator Scott Pezarras told Brick Patch that the township provides health insurance policies for about 1,250 active and retired employees.

But despite a trimmed-down active payroll, existing collective bargaining agreements have limited the savings the administration could have realized because the township cannot simply solicit bids and contract with the lowest-cost provider.

Pezarras said Brick has left the state's health insurance program and, in theory, could find better deals now that it is self-insured. But the existing contracts demand plans equal to or better than the old state plan, even though the state's coverage has since been scaled back.

"You can't just unilaterally change something when you're dealing with collective bargaining agreements," Pezarras said. "Since we left the state health benefits plan, the benefits have lessened. Now, I can't just unilaterally impose that [on employees], I'd have to bargain that."

The health insurance plan requirements included in the collective bargaining agreements are sufficiently generous to make it difficult to find providers, Pezarras said.

Adding to the pain is the fact that the overall cost of health care is on the rise.

"Health care costs are up because the premiums that we're getting, and the claims we're paying out, are escalating because the cost to provide health care is escalating," Pezarras said.

The administration is currently in the process of hammering out an agreement with the Transport Workers Union. That organization filed a grievance against the administration last week over a proposed layoff plan, saying the layoffs are meant to coerce give-backs during negotiations.

There are no easy answers. Acropolis' plan would slash the township's payroll, but at a cost of the public works department and the services its employees provide, such as solid waste and recycling pickup.

Pezarras said at a council meeting Feb. 21 that the township will not be able to solicit more competitive bids for employee health insurance unless the next round of collective bargaining agreements include changes.

BW February 27, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Scott, in order for that to happen NJ would have to pass a right to work law. That is what I said ^^^^ there. I know how it is here, I have had jobs that were unionized and it is a big waste of money!
Scott Pezarras February 27, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Me A have spoken out against Abbott Funding and educational funding formulas numerous times, but this has to be handled at the State the legislature needs to address this and they have not. This administraton as well as prior administration have supported resolutions that revamp the school funding formula based on student population which would give Brick approx $40,000,000 more in educational aid..That is approx 40% of the school tax levy!
BW February 27, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Something needs to be done and soon. What really irritates me is the fact the "priate schools" in lakewood and Deal, get more funding then we do, and we can even send our kids there if we wanted to, like the catholic schools, With the inner cities it is just good money after bad. Their graduation rates are about the same as todays interest rates. I would MUCH rather see them REWARD the districts who have the high graduation rates, good test scores, you get the idea. I have sent several requests to Mr. Wolf about the ideas I had for school funding, but unfortunaely he never answered my letters.
Can't handle the truth February 28, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Hollowman, those statistics are from the dept of education government numbers. im not about to believe them. the federal government has no business in Education. when they do. everything gets bloated , expensive. and fails. Government needs to get out of our lives .
Gene February 28, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Where was everyone when Progressive minded politicions tried to get a federal single payer health plan initiated. You were all drinking the Fox 'so called' News Kool aid. This is all going to get worse until we take the insurance companies out of the equation. Money should go from patient to the doctor without billionaire CEO'S in the way. We are destroying the families of all middle class workers. Obama only got it half right thanks to the obstruction of insurance company lobbyists. At least our kids are now covered until 26, the doughnut hole has gotten smaller on senior citizen pt. D drugs, and they can't turn you down for pre-existing conditions. Insurance premiums are still going up while the disparity between the rich and the rest of us has never been so great. We are at a breaking point and we can't let the rich play by a different set of rules. We don't need band aid fixes and we don't need to destroy the lives of our neighbors who WANT to work. We have to start looking at health care differently.
KC February 28, 2012 at 05:40 AM
Yah know the irony of all of this is everyone is apparently being fiscally stressed due to medical and yet I bet a majority of people here are against socialized medicine. The way I see it we have two choices: Socialized Medical Care or No Medical Care. Some of these posts seem to prefer the latter choice.
KC February 28, 2012 at 05:48 AM
http://bcn.boulder.co.us/health/healthwatch/canada.html It's worth a look.
OceanCounty February 28, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Well, 164 comments later we still have no idea as to what our township employees contribute towards their health benefit plan, or what the current level of benefits are. The original article was slightly confusing, and did not provide any facts as to actual benefit levels (co-pays, etc) and individual coats. It also noted that when Brick went to self insure to save taxpayer $$, the TWP had to provide benefits equal to, or better than the "old" state benefits- Who negoiated a contract with that language? Now the state has offered more plans with increased copays and increased employee & retiree contribution levels. Does this mean we are still providing free health benefits to all TWP retirees? Now because Brick agreed to specific contract language (which never should have been agreed to), we are locked into union contracts that are costing the taxpayers more. I'm not sure who is running this town, but it looks like the unions have the lead.
Reality February 28, 2012 at 01:12 PM
OceanCounty - Yup, that's exactly what I asked in my first comment - which is way back at #4. Dan Nee and/or Scott Pezarras - Where are the answers?!!!
rick from brick February 28, 2012 at 04:30 PM
My insurance premiums went up 65% in 2011 so i can relate. I'm sick and tired of listening to public employees whine over petty little increase proposals they all need to get a clue. Apparently though the idiots in this town dont get it, i still cant believe the tax increase passed last year. I am beginning to think that we deserve this.
Cosmo February 28, 2012 at 05:26 PM
And this surprises you? Truth be told, its a grand mix of differing co-pays and employee contributions which had to be negotiated based on the union's ability to buy someone. As you can see, the NJEA has the greatest ability to buy whoever they want and it is reflected in what their members pay both while employes and post employment. Thats the reason why there are multiple tables based on which union you were a member of in http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/pensions/hb-comparison-home.shtml. If you run a business, you buy one health plan that is most cost effective for the entity. When you have your hands out, you begin to be selective about who gets what. This goes to the top of our state government. So to answer your question directly, you will receive no answer since those facts are intentionally hidden, obscure and convoluted to protect those who bleed our state and municipalities. Ask Scott Pezzaras and he will say it was contractual. That's the extent of his involvement, he complies with what is required by CBA or other agreements. Who signed the contract and gave away the store? That is where the guilt lies.
wheres murrow? February 28, 2012 at 06:44 PM
http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/02/local_governmentstaxpayers_cou.html
Oscar Wilde February 28, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Read it and weep............ http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/02/local_governmentstaxpayers_cou.html FIRE PEZZARAS (BEFORE HE IS ARRESTED ???)
TownshipofBrick February 28, 2012 at 08:15 PM
For anyone interested, here is a link to see the most recent public employee contracts - including Brick Township - that has been filed with NJPERC. http://www.perc.state.nj.us/publicsectorcontracts.nsf
BW February 28, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Am I missing something? All those contracts expired years ago? And TWU expired this past dec. IBT Loc 469 Municipal 01/01/91 - 12/31/92 No IBT Loc 469 Municipal 01/01/2005 - 12/31/2008 Yes PBA Loc 230 Municipal 01/01/92 - 12/31/94 No PBA Loc 230 Municipal 01/01/92 - 12/31/94 No PBA Loc 230 & PBA SOA Municipal 01/01/2005 - 12/31/2008 No TWU Loc 225 Br 4 Municipal 01/01/2008 - 12/31/2011 No TWU Loc 225 Br 4 Municipal 01/01/2008 - 12/31/2010 No TWU Loc 225 Br 4 Municipal 01/01/2004 - 12/31/2007 Yes
OceanCounty February 29, 2012 at 12:11 PM
From today's (2/29/12) Asbury Park Press article: http://www.app.com/article/20120229/NJNEWS1002/302290024/NJ-municipalities-could-save-100-million-state-health-benefits?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Frontpage "Comptroller A. Matthew Boxer’s office has also referred a Brick contract to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission for possible action for an apparent violation of pay-to-play laws. An insurance broker had made $1,700 worth of contributions to Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis and members of the Township Council even though the contract was awarded without a competitive process." In its official response, Brick said that it had saved $1.3 million over the state plan since 2003, although it had not saved money since 2008. Acropolis said in an interview that township officials did not think pay-to-play laws applied since the township did not pay the broker directly." From 2003-2008 Brick may have saved $1.3M, but with the rate of medical insurance increases in the last 5 years, I wonder how much we've lost and will continue to lose until this is fixed?? I also wonder what the TWP is doing about it. The Council is squabbling over the $52K Mayors salary, yet, we are more than likely throwing MILLIONS of dollars away because of poor decisions on the TWP medical plans. Where in the H----is the management in this town of ours???? Reading things like this makes me sad and sick for the future of our town.
Stinger February 29, 2012 at 01:33 PM
This is all well and good and it sounds like there some spaining to do but it still doesn't take away from the fact that our township employees (all of them) should be PAYING for a reasonable percentage of there health care and retirement.
BW February 29, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Stinger I totally agree, but for that to happen 2 other things need to happen first. 1) ALL the unions must agree 2) we need someone who knows HOW to bargin with the unions so they all agree.
OceanCounty February 29, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Stinger, You are correct, but unfortunately it looks like the TWP government let the unions call the shots. I don't know why thay can't go back to the bargaining table to do what's right for "ALL". This is why I have always said that public employees should not be allowed to bargain for pay and benefits. The federal government sets pay and benefits, and so should local governments.
TownshipofBrick February 29, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Here is a link to where you can view current labor agreements: http://www.scribd.com/TownshipofBrickNJ
BW February 29, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Again TWU, supervisors and crossing guard contracts expired 12/31/11. As has the PBA. So therefore there are no contracts in place at this time. If there are, where are the NEW ONES? If there are no new ones, this would be the perfect time to get someone who knows how to bargin, get the healthcare costs reduced, along with concessions from the supervisors and PBA, just like the TWU gave.
Gene March 01, 2012 at 04:58 AM
There are unions and collective bargaining in the federal government as well, thank goodness. Why is everyone on a race to the bottom? Disposable income is good for us all in the long run.
OceanCounty March 01, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Yes there are unions in the federal government, I never said otherwise.;Unions are necessary. As a whole, federal employees cannot bargain for pay and benefits, and that is not a race to the bottom. It's called containing costs rather than raising taxes; something local governments need to practice more. If a government can only afford a certain level of pay and benefits, why should it be forced into debt , or to raise taxes to provide what it can't afford. Look at the big auto makers, the unions squeezed them into bankruptcy. Now after the dust has settled, the workers are making wages and benefits in line with the othe auto makers. Who doesn't want more disposable income? However, we also need to understand the pot of money is only so big. The race to the bottom you refer to is all these governments being forced into providing pay and benefits they cannot afford. Eventually something has to give, and like we are seeing in the news on a daily basis, more local governments are forced to raise taxes, and for those who can't, they are going belly up. Like a business, governments need to contain expenses in line with revenue.
OceanCounty March 01, 2012 at 04:03 PM
anna maria, There is no problem with government workers belonging to unions; the problem is with their right to collective bargain over pay and benefits, so please don't confuse one with the other.
Can't handle the truth March 02, 2012 at 02:58 AM
there is everything wrong with public workers belonging to unions. the writer that said there isn't is a fool. it brought us all to this point. loose your home or keep giving out the goodies. don't tell me confused, you work for local government your rights are protected . and as a result we have all this now. there is no more money get that straight . the state is broke.
Can't handle the truth March 02, 2012 at 03:22 AM
the founders of the labor movement viewed unions as a vehicle to get workers more of the profits they help create. Government workers , however, don't generate profits. They merely negotiate for more tax money.When government unions strike , they strike against taxpayers. F D R " considered this unthinkable and Intolerable" . Government collective bargaining means voters do not have the final say on public policy. its not democratic - a fact that unions once recognized. Union contracts make it impossible to reward excellent teachers or fire failing ones. Union contracts give government employees gold-plated benefits. at the cost of higher taxes and less spending on other priorities.
KC March 02, 2012 at 06:15 AM
Ann Maria Methinks thou doth protest too much.
Can't handle the truth March 02, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Hey KC you think I protest to much. IS THAT THE BEST YOU GOT????/ WELL YOUR RIGHT ,I WILL CONTINUE TO PROTEST WHEN MY PROPERTY TAXES KEEP GOING UP AND UP AND UP, WITH NO END . BECAUSE SOME THINK THEY ARE ENTITLED TO WHAT MINE. YOU ARE NOT , i WILL NOT HAND OVER MY HOUSE . i WILL FIGHT AND VOTE THE PEOPLE OUT THAT WILL GOVERN THAT WAY. THE PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO HOLD ON TO THEIR HOMES INA ECONOMY THAT'S SICK. WHAT PART OF... THERE IS NO MORE MONEY , DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND KC . GET THE COBWEBS OUT OF YOUR HEAD. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND A DAM!!!!! THING. GOT IT. B T W. YOU WONT SHUT ME UP. I WILL BE ON HERE PROTESTING AND PROTESTING, AND PROTESTING. BYE...
Can't handle the truth March 02, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Thats right these unions want to dig in and not work with the privet sector , then outsource. the party's over. we are trying to hold on to our homes.
spike March 02, 2012 at 10:17 PM
spike guess what K C. ANN MARIA at one time or onther might have gotten gov.subcides by taxpapers its ok for her but not any one else just like the mayor 2 tax payer funded jobs coll.bargaing is the american way

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