Prospect Park Council Candidate Campaigning to Prohibit Elected Officials From Receiving Health Benefits.

13 08 2007

PAUL BRUBAKER – HERALD NEWS

PROPSECT PARK, NJ – Thomas F.X. Magura, a lifelong borough resident, school board member and perennial political candidate, is on a new campaign to prohibit elected officials from receiving health benefits.

“Borough employees have to work at least 30 hours a week to get them,” Magura said. “We’re a small town. If you need medical benefits, get a job that provides them. You shouldn’t take them off the taxpayers’ money.”

Magura, a Republican candidate for council, is circulating a petition to put a question on the ballot in November that would ask whether health benefits should be eliminated for the mayor, the Borough Council’s six members, as well as part-time and appointed employees, such as the director of recreation. To hold the special referendum, 10 percent of the borough’s registered voters are required to sign Magura’s petition. On Saturday, Magura did not have a tally of just how many people had signed.

Magura said he has seen modifications made to health benefits in neighboring communities.

In Hawthorne, the Borough Council passed a resolution in 2005 eliminating benefits for elected officials, part-time employees and attorneys for the borough, Planning Board and Board of Adjustment, said Hawthorne Councilman Richard S. Goldberg. Those who were already receiving benefits were able to have their coverage continue to be paid, while newly elected officials and new employees have the option to purchase coverage, Goldberg said.

Goldberg believes that Magura’s petition is striking at the “sexy issue” of health benefits costs. “It’s become the norm now to begin to take them away,” he said.

There could be significant savings from eliminating benefits for elected officials, Goldberg said.

“If there were eight elected officials receiving benefits, you could be looking at well over a tax point in the budget,” said Goldberg.

However, Goldberg said there are limitations to the savings. Not every elected official opts to take the state health plan’s coverage. Some officials have benefits from full-time jobs or are included on spouse’s coverage, Goldberg said.

In Passaic, officials went in the opposite direction of the trend of imposing cost-cutting measures on their local budget. The mayor and council voted to grant themselves city-paid post-retirement health benefits after 15 years of service, instead of the 25 years required of municipal employees. Public objection has forced a special meeting of the Passaic City Council, and the council president hopes the benefit will be rescinded.

Mark Perkiss, state Treasury Department spokesman, said Prospect Park has been a member of the state’s health benefits program since 1972, providing coverage to full-time employees as well as appointed or elected officials.

“The town does not have the option to exclude elected officials from coverage, if they opt to enter the program,” Perkiss said.

Ilene Potoak, a Prospect Park resident, said she signed Magura’s petition out of her belief that the mayor and council members should refuse the benefits the state affords to them.

“Their medical benefits are better than every resident’s in the borough,” Potoak said. “Most residents have to pay most of (it).”

Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, Councilwoman Esther Perez, Councilman Richard Esquiche, and Councilman Radhames Capellan could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

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3 responses

14 08 2007
disgusted

“In Passaic, officials went in the opposite direction of the trend of imposing cost-cutting measures on their local budget.”

Remind me again why we vote for them?

14 08 2007
jones

the council in passaic love themselves so much they gave themselves a raise a few years ago and now are voting for lifetime health benefits after 15 yrs. of service, most of the council and the mayor are near that mark. will the mayor then retire to the Dominican Republic? Only in America. Only in Passaic.

19 08 2007
FREDRICK MUTOONI

Who is Mr. Magura?

The man behind the petition, Mr. Magura, is a traitor. On june 2007, he together with Prospect Park Board of Education members voted to give school administrators 80% pay raise. That amount comes to about $500,00.
The same fellow is now serculating a petition to strip council members benefit because he works for Bergen county school district and he knows he is covered
The idea behind taking benefits is discriminatory. Mr. Magura is fearing that too many Blacks and Lations who are community activists in the town and they have no insurance in their jobs or are not working may decide to run for council positions.
Magura is 61 years old andits time for him to retire peacefully

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