County att’y: Town of Massena will owe $900,000 to workers comp for MMH
BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week
The county attorney says the Town of Massena will be on the hook for a $900,000 workers compensation premium for the former Massena Memorial Hospital because they still haven’t paid for the last year the town owned the hospital.
County Attorney Steve Button discussed the 2020 workers compensation rates for St. Lawrence County municipalities during the Monday, July 27 county legislature Finance Committee meeting.He said the county uses a formula based on risk, payroll and experience to bill towns and villages for a self-insured workers comp plan that covers their employees. That means the riskier the jobs any particular municipality’s employees are doing, like working in a hospital, the higher their workers comp premium will be.
The now-named Massena Hospital was transferred from the town to St. Lawrence Health System on Jan. 1 of this year. Town Council members at their July meeting learned they owe about $900,000 to the county for their 2020 workers comp payment just for MMH. That’s on top of a separate $122,717 workers comp payment for the Massena Electric Department and all other town employees. At the July Town Council meeting, the board authorized a $199,000 payment to the county for workers comp.
Button said Massena’s bill is because the county uses the prior year’s rates to calculate the current, incomplete year’s figures. Therefore, Massena still has to pay a 2020 bill to cover their 2019 payroll. The 2019 bill was based on their 2018 payroll.
Button told legislators that Massena’s MMH workers comp payment “has been an ongoing conversation that pre-dates January of this year.” He outlined communications between his office and Massena officials going back several years.
“We have gone out of our way to be open and transparent” with the town and hospital, Button said.
He said there are “sort of limited options” for the county to resolve the outstanding premium.
“We have the option of actually passing a resolution and having the board … re-levy that amount of unpaid apportionment … against the residents of that specific tax district,” Button said.
He said the town can also borrow, or “they could actually talk about some of the revenue shares (sales tax) with them and allow the county to retain a larger portion of that.”
Legislator Tony Arquiett, D-Helena, said he thinks the board should cut Massena a break on the $900,000 premium.
“I also want to remind everybody of the fact that the transition with the hospital is an unprecedented situation. That hospital served more than the Town of Massena. The magnitude of that transition was unequaled in the history of the county,” he said. “Massena carried water for a lot of villages and towns that were fortunate.”
He urged the board to “provide some type of leniency or some types of consideration” and to “work with and alongside Massena to get this resolved.”
The committee voted to approve the 2020 rates as presented in a resolution. That will have to go in front of the full board in August to be made official.
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