March 22. 2013 12:57AM

City board benefits: Giving goes the other way


Manchester aldermen and school board members are not city employees, not even part-time. They are volunteer public servants. As such, they should not get taxpayer-funded health insurance. Yet they do. Amazingly, a charter commission proposal to end that might be even worse.

The taxpayers pay roughly $200,000 a year in premium payments for board-member insurance coverage. That does not include payments for covered medical services. The Union Leader has tried to learn what the total costs are, but our right-to-know request was denied on medical privacy grounds.

This week city charter commission member Rich Girard proposed eliminating the insurance coverage for aldermen and school board members. His proposal was rejected on a 5-4 vote. Instead, commission members voted for a plan that would remove the insurance but compensate board members by raising their stipends from $4,000 a year to $15,000.

Under that plan, the taxpayers would increase their board-member stipend payments by $308,000 a year (from $112,000 to $420,000). We are paying roughly $100,000 a year per board for the insurance coverage now. That plan would raise the taxpayers' minimum yearly costs by about $100,000 a year.

Of course the total costs vary from year to year depending on how many medical bills aldermen and school board members rack up. The total might exceed $308,000 a year. But there is no way of knowing.

The idea that the people should compensate elected public servants for losing a benefit they never should have been given in the first place is ridiculous. Elected board members serve the taxpayers. An elementary part of that service is to refrain from being a financial burden on the people one is elected to serve.

Stipends are not meant to profit board members. They are meant to provide a small, partial compensation for services rendered. The giving still is supposed to go primarily from the board members to the public. Health benefits and big stipends reverse that equation. They should be rejected out of hand.