Future members of the Portage County Board of Election will not receive county health insurance coverage, saving the county more than $20,000 a year and making the county the first in the region to end the perk.
Portage County Commissioners on Tuesday reversed a March decision to continue providing coverage to the four positions, which are political appointees who meet once or twice a month.
Commissioner Tommie Jo Marsilio initiated the idea of ending the practice when she noted that election board members only work a few hours a year, yet receive a benefit that no other boards, commissioners, or even part-time county employees receive. Her resolution was voted down 2-1.
Marsilio said she continued mentioning the issue from time to time, and last week persuaded Commissioner Chris Smeiles to change his mind.
On Tuesday, he voted with Marsilio to end coverage for new appointees and for renewing board of election members. Smeiles was not available to comment on Tuesday’s vote. Commissioner Maureen Frederick was absent and did not vote.
When the topic first surfaced in the spring, Portage County was covering three of four board members at a cost of about $1,627 a month. The combined contribution of those board members toward their monthly premiums was $191.
A Beacon Journal survey of area counties found Summit County contributed $48,000 a year toward health insurance for its four elections board members, Stark paid $44,000 annually for three of four members who take coverage, Medina paid $50,000 for four members and Wayne paid $17,000 a year for the two members who are covered.
Each county election board in Ohio is composed of two Democrats and two Republicans. They are appointed by their respective parties to approve purchases and set policies.
The newspaper’s survey also found that a typical board member puts in fewer than two weeks’ worth of full-time work in a year.
State law establishes the salary for board members, based on county population. For instance, Portage County board members earn an annual salary of $12,000, while a Summit County board member makes $18,000 a year.
But the offer of health care is optional, and Marsilio said she hopes Portage County’s act will encourage other counties to reconsider their practices.
“I think we’re acknowledging to tax-paying families who are struggling out there that we get it and we are trying to be responsible,” she said.