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St. Lawrence County may review workers’ compensation formula

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CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators may once again tackle how it apportions workers’ compensation costs to towns, villages and the city of Ogdensburg.

The self-insurance plan is set up so that towns, villages and the city pay their annual share based on 70 percent property assessment and 30 percent experience over the last three years.

Legislators are scheduled at their next full board meeting to adopt the self-insurance apportionment for 2014, but a review of the formula for the next three-year period could begin later this summer.

“At least they’re going to analyze it,” County Attorney Michael C. Crowe said.

Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, an outspoken critic of the formula, said he will make a pitch to have a committee investigate an alternative.

Assessment should not be the main driver of how much a municipality pays toward workers’ compensation because it has nothing to do with the cost of the program, Mr. Morrill said.

“I’m going to beg for the opportunity to find something else,” he said.

Businesses look at experience and types of jobs. The 70/30 formula used by the county is unfair to rural areas that have few municipal workers but an inflated assessment, perhaps because of waterfront property, Mr. Morrill said.

The town of Clifton should not have its rate over-weighed by summer homes on Cranberry Lake when Massena has a town-owned hospital and airport and many more opportunities for municipal workers to be injured, he said.

Assessment was tied to workers’ compensation when enabling state legislation was passed in the 1950s. Counties can opt to include experience in the formula.

In 1990, legislators adopted a 90/10 percent assessment/experience ratio. In 1994, they tweaked the formula to 85/15 percent assessment/experience. In the late 1990s, the formula was changed to its present structure.

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