WOONSOCKET â€“ The state-appointed Budget Commission in charge of city affairs has begun work on lowering the city's healthcare costs with closed-door meetings with officials from the city's labor unions.
A preliminary session of that effort was held Thursday in the City Council's second-floor conference room after the commission concluded its weekly public session upstairs in Historic Harris Hall.
The commission is hoping to gain savings in city employee healthcare costs as part of its efforts to cover an approximate $6 million revenue gap in the $122 million city budget it approved earlier in the summer.
While not the only savings that will be needed to balance the budget, changes in healthcare costs could be a significant first step in addressing the city's still-unresolved budget crisis, according to officials.
Council President John Ward, one of the Commission's five members along with Mayor Leo T. Fontaine, confirmed on Friday that the commission did present options for possible savings in healthcare to city union representatives attending Thursday's health care work session. While unable to detail those options at the present time, Ward said, the commission's goal in the discussions is to establish savings under a unified healthcare plan for all city employees.
â€śThe structure would be the same, and all employees would have the same benefits, the same copays, the same deductibles and the same prescription coverage,â€ť he said.
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