New Milford rejects effort to keep daycare staff on town insurance
NEW MILFORD — Over the noise made by more than a dozen antsy children, the Town Council voted Monday against keeping 11 employees of the nonprofit Children’s Center on the town insurance plan.
The vote split along party lines after Republican Town Councilman Peter Bass proposed an ordinance that would have kept the center on the town’s plan. But majority Democrats backed Mayor David Gronbach’s proposal to cut all non-employees from town insurance, arguing that allowing the center to stay on the plan would open the door for other nonprofits to request coverage.
“Bad governance should not be grandfathered in,” Gronbach told the crowd. “I can’t just hand out taxpayer money because I like them.”
The vote followed lengthy public comment by supporters of the center, which offers child care on a sliding scale, before a crowd that overflowed the council chambers and spilled into the hallways.
“Fifteen years of coming to these meetings and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said one woman near the back of the room.
Much of the public comment came from center supporters, who praised its staff and warned that kicking them off the town plan could lead to its closure.
Children’s Center Director Susan Johnston said the agency is not a typical non-profit, that it provides a service that beneifts the whole town. The support the town provides in insurance coverage cannot be replaced by grants or other sources, she added.
“We are not just a school, we are a community organization,” she said.
Children’s Center employees have been on the town’s plan for more than two decades, but no Town Council member could remember why they were put on it in the first place. When Gronbach found out about the arrangement in June, he sought legal and financial advice and decided the town shouldn’t continue to provide coverage.
The town will provide coverage for the center’s 11 employees for a few more months, Gronbach said. Then town officials will help the center find a new plan as of Jan. 1. If that plan proves too costly, center administrators can seek more money from the town during budget season, he said.
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