Letter: Bad Faith in Hartford

To the Editor:

I read in the Dec. 11 Valley News that the Hartford Selectboard voted to change the policy on health coverage for retirees (“Hartford Retirees Can’t Sway Board.”) I was on the Selectboard that created that policy. The town was spending huge amounts of money on buyouts of sick and vacation time and had no way to budget for those unexpected costs when people retired. We decided that the best way to manage those costs, provide an accurate budget to the taxpayers and recognize the dedicated service of our retiring employees was to provide health insurance to our retirees in lieu of paying for accumulated sick and vacation hours in a lump sum. Providing such coverage allowed us to budget for the health premium costs each year and not face tens of thousands of dollars of unbudgeted costs for retiring employees each year.

Now, you may say, “Wait, you changed the policy of the previous board.” That is true, but we didn’t make a retroactive change. We set a start date for the new change that respected the good-faith agreement that previous retirees had made. We didn’t ask former retirees to give their buyout money back. We set a date when the new policy would start allowing eligible employees to retire, with the time buyouts to continue before the new policy started.

This new policy takes away (or greatly lessens) the dedicated retirees’ health benefits and, in effect, asks former retirees to give back their buyout. It violates a good-faith agreement we made with those retirees. It is shameful.

Randy Wagoner

Locust Grove, Va.