Steubenville officials are preparing to go public with their request for health care concessions from the three city employee unions.
City Council members agree with a recommendation from City Manager Cathy Davison to hold a town hall meeting in the near future to discuss the topic, though a date still needs to be set.
"Representatives from Health America will offer what a city similar in size to Steubenville and with union workers is doing with their health care program. Health America will present the benchmarks during the town hall meeting. You have seen the results from our Joint Health Care Committee meetings," Davison told council members during a finance committee meeting this week.
"We will invite the public to attend the meeting to learn what we are asking from our unions as far as changes to our health care program. We hope city residents will then put pressure on the city unions to consider our proposed changes," Davison added.
Councilman Gerald DiLoreto supported the idea of a town hall meeting.
"I am tired of this council being the whipping boy. Ninety percent of our city budget goes to salaries and benefits. That's 20 percent over the national average. Only 35 percent of our city residents are paying taxes. This city has become a retirement community subsidized by the government. If everyone gave back what this council has given back, we could erase our debt," said DiLoreto.
"In 2010, we were paying $8,500 a year for an employee's health care coverage. In 2012 that cost was $11,000 for each employee. Everything we do affects the cash flow. We will have to tackle the health care issue," noted Councilman David Lalich.
"There are no other cuts we can make except in the contract negotiations. We will have to look at health care, a wage freeze and maybe vacations. But we are also going to have to make decisions as a council. We are going to make some very good friends unhappy with us, but we have to do this," remarked Councilman Kenny Davis.
Councilman Greg Metcalf called for the city administration "to prepare a game plan for the future as soon as possible."