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County Not Hurt By Dunkirk Leaving Plan

Dunkirk’s decision to pull out of the county’s workers compensation plan will apparently not hurt any other municipality.

On Tuesday, the Common Council voted 4-0 to go to a different insurance company after the county announced Dunkirk’s rates would increase by more than $86,000 a year.

Legislature Chairman Pierre Chagnon said he was aware of Dunkirk was considering leaving the county and said he supports their decision whatever it is. “We talked about this (Tuesday) morning in our budget and finance committee meeting. If Dunkirk can get a better rate, great for them because it will have no negative impact on the county’s plan,” he said Wednesday.

In May the Chautauqua County Legislature voted 15-3 to approve a local law amending the county’s self-insurance plan for workers compensation. Currently 40% of the workers comp plan costs are based on property valuation. The new law amends that to be based on wages of employees. The county will continue to charge 60% based on the five years claims experience.

With this change, Jamestown was projected to pay an increase of $157,315, Dunkirk would pay an increase of $86,139 and Westfield would pay an increase of $7,766. The other municipalities in the county were expected to either pay the same or less for workers comp insurance starting Jan. 1.

Chagnon said municipalities had the option to withdraw from the county’s workers comp plan by July 1. He said the county was notified by Dunkirk on that day that they were intending to vote on the measure.

Chagnon said even though Dunkirk’s final vote occurred after July 1 that won’t affect them leaving.

He added that Jamestown is exploring options as well. Should they want to leave, he said they won’t try to stop them. “We’re not going to be legalistic about this. If Jamestown can get a benefit by going to another plan then we’re going to try to work with them to accommodate them,” Chagnon said.

Comp Alliance will take over the Dunkirk account. The resolution passed Tuesday states the firm “quoted rates that would save the city roughly $90,000 per year on premium costs.” There are also potential savings via rebates based on good claims ratings.

Dunkirk will have to pay out around $575,000 in pre-existing work compensation claims, according to Tuesday’s resolution. The city will use American Rescue Plan Act funding to cover the cost of that.

Staff writer M.J. Stafford contributed to this article.

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