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Columbus city workers insurance costs far below average

As the City of Columbus copes with falling tax revenues and a rising budget defecit, employees continue to contribute little for their benefits. The amount of money Columbus employees pay each month for health insurance is far below the national average. Last month the Kaiser Family Foundation released its national health insurance premium survey. It found the average American in 2003 paid $200 a month for family health insurance coverage. City of Columbus employees pay no where near that amount. Most city employees pay about $50 a month for a family plan. Police officers now pay only $10 per month for a family plan. And while the $200 national average monthly employee premium in the Kaiser Foundation survey was only for health insurance; the city's low premiums cover not only health insurance but dental, vision, life and disability insurance. The median salary of a city of columbus employee is $39,000... $53,000 for a police officer. If city employees paid the national average monthly premium - the city would take in an extra $15-million each year. The city is trying to get its employees to pick up more of the cost.. Their share has risen from about 3% a couple years ago to about 7% percent now. They will pay about 10% of the cost by 2005. But that's still well below the national average Columbus human resources director Chet Christie. One big reason city workers pay such low premiums is the strength of the city's employee unions. The police union has offered to increase the monthly premium to $35... The city wants to bump it up to $90. The issue is now in binding arbitration. City Councilman Sensenbrenner says another reason Columbus lags behind other city's is it has not faced the same budget problems. Even when other cities around the country suffered an economic slump and a drop in tax revenues.. Sensenbrenner says Columbus's development boom fed the city treasury... If the economy does not turn around soon and if tax revenues to increase, city officials may have to ask for a tax increase or trash collection fee. Based on the city's recent referendum history, any move would likely end up before the voters. Sensenbrenner says voters won't approve it, if employees are not paying more for health insurance. Columbus is not unique among large Ohio cities. Cleveland and Cincinnati city workers about about same for their health insurance.

Mike Thompson spends much of his time correcting people who mispronounce the name of his hometown – Worcester, Massachusetts. Mike studied broadcast journalism at Syracuse University when he was not running in circles – as a distance runner on the SU track team.