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Sutherland says Parishville will see significant jump in worker’s comp costs

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PARISHVILLE - St. Lawrence County legislators approved a new worker’s compensation formula Monday, and Legislator Scott A. Sutherland informed Parishville town officials Tuesday that their costs will be going up jumping more than $20,000 for 2015 compared to the bill they would have received under the current formula.

The new formula was adopted by a 9-5 vote, with Mr. Sutherland among the lawmakers who voted against the new plan. He said the town of Parishville will have its contribution climb to $73,439.

“It’s a complicated issue and when we sign up usually we sign up because of a local law and we sign up for three years so everybody knows the rates. Since they started doing this a long time ago it was based - I don’t know why they did this back when it started - but it was based on assessed evaluation of property and everything more than risk,” Mr. Sutherland said. “And value doesn’t really have anything to do with the risk in workmen’s compensation.”

Numerous municipal leaders complained that they had not had ample time to study the formula before Monday’s approval.

For years, the county has used a formula for the self-insurance plan so that participating towns, villages and the city of Ogdensburg pay their annual share based on 70 percent property assessment and 30 percent on the amount paid for experience over the past three years.

“I was one of the first people to support a different way to try to make it more risk orientated. But as it went, they didn’t get on the process soon enough and it turned out a product in the end - it’s not done yet but they voted again. Maybe they can correct it in the future, but I’m not sure,” Mr. Sutherland said.

The new formula will reduce the ratio assigned to property assessment from 70 percent in 2015 to 60 percent in 2016 and 50 percent in 2017.

Additionally, it places employees into risk categories. For instance, a highway worker is at a higher risk than an office worker.

While a few areas like the villages of Massena and Norwood will see significant decreases in cost, Parishville’s cost will see almost a 50 percent spike in its allocation.

“I do six towns and four of them are in this system that the county regulates. ... Of the four I looked at, yours was the one that looked liked it was going to go up substantially and I don’t know the reason for that. Either you had some reevaluation recently with property and/or you had some claims from worker’s comp not too long ago,” Mr. Sutherland said.

“That’s why I was wondering if they’re going to go back to reevaluate each year - the individual towns - because with this plan that they’re doing, we’re looking at a $30,000 difference in what we paid last year,” Town Supervisor Rodney G. Votra said.

Mr. Votra said he understands what the system is trying to accomplish, but he was vocal about the need for county officials to review its numbers on a regulat basis.

“It makes sense what they’re doing because what they’re actually establishing is for townships to push for safer workplaces and more safety training perhaps, but that’s why I would like to make sure that they’re coming back regularly and reevaluating,” he said. “If we can get our worker’s comp cases that are driving (the costs) up and next year we don’t have any, then I would like to see that adjustment made accordingly.”

The county legislator, who will be vacating his seat representing District 7 at the end of the year, said he is optimistic the plan can be altered down the road.

“I thought it was a good idea (but) they didn’t put enough time in and the towns didn’t have enough input on this,” Mr. Sutherland said. “It was a good idea but when you make a pie and you don’t bake it long enough it comes out all mushy and it’s not very good. That’s what you’ve got here. So it’s not really good, but maybe they can put it back in the oven and cook it the rest of the way.”

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