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Change To Workers Comp Plan Proposed

County Finance Director Kitty Crow, right, speaks during the legislature’s Audit and Control Committee meeting.

Chautauqua County is looking at making a change with its municipal workers compensation plan that lawmakers believe is more fair, but could cost some municipalities more money.

Discussions were held last week during a meeting of the county Legislature’s Administrative Services and Audit and Control committee regarding the county’s self insurance plan.

Finance Director Kitty Crow noted that the county administers a municipal self-funded workers compensation plan.

“Currently, 40% of plan costs are allocated based on property valuation and 60% is allocated based on the prior five years claims experience,” she said. “Considering that a standard workers compensation plan would not take property valuation into consideration when setting premiums, the proposed local law change would replace the valuation based allocation with a wage based allocation. No change to the 60% experience allocation is proposed.”

Crow has proposed a local law plan that costs allocated would be 40% based on wages and 60% based on experience.

She believes using wages instead of property valuation makes more sense. “It’s really more relevant when assessing charges for such a plan as workers comp insurance,” she said.

Crow did an analysis on how this would impact municipalities. There were four municipalities that would have a “dramatic” impact. Those were the town of Chautauqua, the village of Westfield, and the cites of Dunkirk and Jamestown.

Crow explained that the town of Chautauqua, because its property values are so high around the lake and has a low workforce, would see a significant decrease.

Crow noted Westfield would have an increase. She noted the village has a police department and paid utility workers. “Their wages are a little bit higher as a percentage of total compared to their valuation,” she said.

The same is true of Dunkirk and Jamestown. “The two cities would also see an increase under the new formula because their wages as a percentage of total is more significant,” she said.

Crow provided a detailed analysis of each municipality’s individual cost had the change gone into effect in 2022. The analysis shows the town of Chautauqua would save nearly $110,000. Westfield would pay $14,090 more. Dunkirk would pay about $115,000 more. Jamestown would pay $330,400 more.

Crow noted that benefits paid to an individual are based, in part, on lost wages, which is why she’s pushing for the change. “Valuation is never a factor when determining the amounts paid on an individual’s claim,” she said.

The local law does have a section stating that a municipality that sees a large increase in their annual share, that municipality would allow them to make installment payments. Crow said this is because they wanted to help municipalities like Jamestown and Dunkirk that are facing a large increase.

Legislator Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, said he supports the change because it’s similar to the private sector. “It’s what I’m more familiar with, coming up with another percentage of wages other than wages and experience to pay my workers comp for the businesses I’ve owned. So I actually appreciate this,” he said.

Audit and Control backed the proposed local law change. The Administrative Services Committee chose not to vote on it. The local law now goes to the full legislature for final approval. If approved, it would go into effect in 2023.

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