Despite the challenge of teaching in an urban school district, Buffalo teachers don’t have to wear their stress on their faces. Their new health benefit package covers cosmetic surgery, courtesy of taxpayers.

Nevertheless, the teachers union prefers the old insurance system that allowed teachers to pick among four health insurance carriers (which also covered plastic surgery). An appellate court has ruled that the financially beleaguered city of Buffalo must restore the previous options.

Gary Crosby, chief financial and operating officer for the district, says the decision will cost the school district $13 million a year. “Over $13 million in annual savings is now in the hands of union leadership,” Crosby told the Buffalo News.

For the Buffalo Teachers Union, the court ruling may prove to be a Pyrrhic victory, because it likely will force Buffalo to lay off teachers so it can finance gold-plated insurance policies for remaining staff. In a setback for the union, the court overturned a lower court decision that ordered the city to rehire 20 teachers laid off because of the insurance dispute.

Switching to a single insurance carrier has produced big savings to the school district, says the Buffalo News.

The district said it has saved more than $40 million since adopting the single health plan in 2005, and that those savings were instrumental in hiring 200 teachers and launching new classroom programs over the last three years.

Prior to that, nearly 1,000 employees — most of them teachers — were laid off over a four-year period, Crosby said.

Incidentally, teachers aren’t the only ones with generous health benefits in Erie County.

Michael Spina of the Buffalo News reports that commissioners of the Erie County Water Board (who meet only twice a month) qualify for health insurance benefits as full-time employees. The commissioners (who are paid $29,000 annually) get $6,400 if they waive family coverage. Commissioners are also generous to their staff. Last year, they gave former deputy director Edward J. Kasprzak $230,000 for delaying his retirement.

Wonder if the Erie County Water Board compares notes with the Plainville water district board (Nassau County) According to Newsday, Chairman Edward Shulroff got his colleagues to retroactively extend orthodontic benefits to his 69-year-old wife so she wouldn’t have to go around “looking like a picket fence.” (Those words are her husband’s.)

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is a senior fellow at the Empire Center.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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