The Dansville town board approved a three-year contract with highway department employees at Thursday’s meeting.
Supervisor Mike Willis said discussions started in November 2010. The contract approved by the board isn’t much different from the previous contract, said the supervisor.
The board entered the discussions asking for the three highway employees to contribute to their health benefits. This isn’t included in the contract, though, so the town will continue to pay for the highway employees’ health insurance through 2013.
Willis said this concession was part of a compromise.
“Right now, the budget can handle paying for the health benefits,” he said. “The employees didn’t get pay raises this year. We have some people in the community that don’t agree with us paying it, but for right now, we can afford to pay.
“The problem is that you start making them pay for health insurance, they’ll want pay raises. And if you give them the raise, the town pays more for their retirement. It costs the town one way or another.”
The board decided early on not to push paying the health benefits after the highway employees agreed to not having a pay raise in 2011. The employees will receive a pay raise of $.25 per hour in 2012, and another raise of the same size in 2013.
The compromise sat well with the employees, said Willis.
“They understand, they didn’t push the raise. They know cost of health insurance is a big thing,” he said.
Negotiations in other areas saw the board meet the employees on middle ground. Willis said the employees asked for two more paid holidays; the contract the board approved agreed to one more paid holiday. The employees are also allowed four sick days each year through 2013. If unused, they can rollover to the following year for up to 12 sick days.
Most importantly, the town must keep at least two highway employees, said Willis.
“The guys were concerned about lay-offs,” said Willis. “We need three people to work in the town anyway, and we probably could use another guy. But right now, we can’t afford it.”
While the health care benefits stayed the same for the highway employees, Willis said eventually contracts could change for other town employees. Willis emphasized part-time employees and non-union employees who receive health benefits may see a change in upcoming years.
“It’s rare to see part-time employees getting benefits,” he said. “I think it’s unfair to tax payers who are paying for benefits for a part-time employee when that person may have other options for health benefits. Maybe if they want to keep it, they might have to throw in a percentage down the road."