With a property tax hike currently on the table, a Metro councilman says now is the time to end one of the council’s most expensive perks: lifetime, taxpayer-subsidized health care benefits.
Councilman Carter Todd, who represents parts of Forest Hills and Green Hills, has filed an ordinance that would end Metro’s policy that allows former two-term council members to continue to buy into the council’s subsidized health care plan after they leave office.
“It’s kind of a hidden time bomb, I think,” Todd said of the policy he hopes to undo. “We’re going through all this tax increase stuff right now. I think if we’re asking people in Nashville to maybe take on more of a burden, then the Metro Council ought to tighten its belt, too.”
Todd’s bill heads before the council on the first of three votes June 5, the same night the council will consider Mayor Karl Dean’s 53-cent property hike on a key second of three votes.
According to Todd’s ordinance, the Metro-subsidized benefit costs taxpayers approximately $300,000 annually. Like other Metro employees, current and former council members pay for 25 percent of the health care plan while the city pays 75 percent.
The proposal comes nearly four years after The Tennessean, in September 2008, first shed light on the little-known perk in a story that caused immediate buzz in Metro government circles. At the time, 18 current and 28 former council members carried the subsidized health benefit — some who were eligible for Medicare. The plan covers some former council members’ families, The Tennessean reported in 2008.
“Right now, if you serve two-full terms on the Metro Council, for the rest of your life you can buy subsidized health care,” Todd said. “It’s kind of a benefit that when you do your financial statements with the city, you can’t really quantify it. No one knows how much health care is going to cost. It’s just an undisclosed liability that can just grow and grow.”
Todd said his ordinance is written in a way that “grandfathers,” or protects, sitting and former council members who are currently eligible for the council’s health care plan.
“It will apply to future Metro Councils,” Todd said, specifically council members who are sworn into office beginning in September 2019.
The proposal allows council members who were participants of the health care plan while they held office to continue to receive the benefit, “provided they pay the full amount of the premium without any subsidy from the Metro government.”
Todd’s ordinance could perhaps find some support in the 40-member council, especially from some conservative-leaning members who are wary of Dean’s tax hike.
Nonetheless, Todd is skeptical about the prospects of his own legislation: “I don’t think it will pass,” he said. “But I think it’s a good idea, and it’s something I think the taxpayers would appreciate.”