PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Petersburg first responders are concerned about a proposed rate hike that could cause their healthcare premiums to more than double.
The city has struggled in the past to operate within its means, but the city's newest leaders say they have to make some tough choices to keep the city afloat. That means raising the cost city employees pay for health insurance.
If desperate situations call for desperate measures, it's holding true in Petersburg, where those who work for the city may soon notice a much a smaller paycheck - and not everyone's excited about it.
"I've already heard from many firefighters concerned with how they're going to make their house payments," said Captain Dan Macaluso of the Petersburg Firefighter's Association.
Here's why. The most popular healthcare plan for city workers currently requires employees to pay $260 per paycheck. Under a new proposal, that would go up in July to $565. That's nearly $305 more a pay period.
"You're looking at, if you have a family, over $500 a month in addition to what we've already been paying in insurance," Macaluso said.
Some firefighters say it may lead them to look elsewhere for jobs, especially since they're just recovering from a 10 percent pay reduction city leaders put in place two years ago.
"That would be a challenge. We are concerned about that, but in trying to balance our choices, you have to make hard choices sometime," said Petersburg's new Chief Operating Officer Michael Rogers.
He says the healthcare hike would save the city $1.6 million.
"We're doing this to manage one of the largest costs in our budget," Rogers said.
Prior to the city changing the face of its leadership, Petersburg habitually overspent and borrowed to make ends meet.
"The city will be more financially disciplined and make those hard choices so that we don't put the residents through the kind of financial turmoil that has existed in the past," Rogers said.
"Hopefully look at other options, any other avenues they can take to prevent such a large burden on employees with the city with families," Macaluso said.
Petersburg would give financial incentives to employees who opt out of the city's health insurance to sign up for a spouse's plan. The city is also considering offering employees a stipend, which would lessen the blow of the hike by $150.
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