Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- A report released Thursday by Syracuse’s city auditor reveals some staggering numbers for a city that’s already struggling financially.
The report breaks down the escalating cost of healthcare and says Syracuse is on an unsustainable path.
Part of the problem is what the city calls “upside down coverage,” which means there’s more retirees on the city’s healthcare plan than current employees.
Currently, there are a total of 8,200 people covered by the city. The projected healthcare cost for them in 2013 is just over $48-million. That’s the second largest expenditure in the city’s budget after wages and salaries.
The projected cost is far above the current city tax levy of $33.5-million, so even 100 percent of the tax levy wouldn’t cover healthcare costs.
A plan for a single employee costs city taxpayers about $6,400 per year. City Auditor Marty Masterpole says there’s no one solution.
"You can raise property taxes all you want, you can't get to this number that we have to pay. I'm not trying to pick on our employees, realistically they have very generous benefits. It was negotiated, it was in fair play within salary and benefits, but realistically there's going to have to be some givebacks on the employee-side through negotiations,” said Masterpole.
He says really it’s going to take a comprehensive review and the city may even have to consider some kind of partnership with the county, which is also dealing with the rising healthcare costs.
Bill Ryan, Chief of Staff to Mayor Stephanie Miner says they appreciate the auditor's report.
“This shows the ongoing problem that sky-high healthcare costs continue to be for a financially strapped city," Ryan said. "The Mayor and the Administration will review Mr. Masterpole’s recommendations and determine if and when they could be applicable to our healthcare choices."
The city school district is facing the same issue. The audit didn’t cover them, but the school district and the city are working together with their healthcare consultant on a number of ways to minimize healthcare cost increases. One thing regarding a different way to package prescription drug benefits to a portion of the retiree population was on hold pending the outcome of the presidential election. That’s now back in action.