Health insurance, handbooks drive board discussionTeachers and support staff in the Superior School District are going through changes, but one thing will stay the same. The Superior School Board voted Tuesday to retain their current health insurance carrier, HealthPartners.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Teachers and support staff in the Superior School District are going through changes, but one thing will stay the same. The Superior School Board voted Tuesday to retain their current health insurance carrier, HealthPartners.
Originally, the board proposed switching to Medica because an optional higher premium plan would cost employees $1,000 less for the year. Staff representatives recommend staying with HealthPartners.
“I feel a lot of fear out there,” said board member Christina Kintop. “I understand the fear. I want you to understand that the board is trying to make the best decision for everyone.”
Personal stories about the high cost of health care and its impact on staff and their families haunted Kintop after last week’s committee of the whole meeting.
“Those heartfelt stories are the reason we went back and looked at some of these issues,” she said. “I don’t have preference one way or another. I think we’re comparing apples to apples …” with the plans.
The board voted to stay with HealthPartners.
“I believe in people taking ownership,” said board member Robert Morehouse. “Is now not a good time for them to take ownership? Here is the plan they want.”
HealthPartners offers two policy options to staff – a high-deductible plan requiring out of pocket expenses of $3,000 for an individual, $6,000 for a family or a higher premium plan that is similar to the current one, providing co-pays right away.
Health insurance changes helped cushion a $700,000 budget hole for the 2012-13 school year, according to board members. With the $1.5 million in health insurance savings, the district was also able to offer $900,000 in salary increases for teachers and staff.
Frustration with the budget squeeze was evident on both sides of the table during both June meetings.
“Last year the teachers and the support staff, and I would assume administration, they helped balance the budget by contributing to their insurance and benefits,” Kohlhaas said. “This year, they balanced the budget by changing the insurance costs. The staff cannot keep doing that and keep quality staff and quality program in place.”
New policy handbooks for teachers, support staff and administration also gained board approval. The handbooks take the place of collective bargaining agreements, which expire June 30.
Board members have been working with staff for nearly a year to hammer out the handbooks.
“I do give the board a ton of credit for working with us and talking us through it and listening to people’s concerns and opinions with it,” said Kim Kohlhaas, president of the Superior Federation of Teachers. Yet she said the teachers and staff didn’t get to look at the final proposed handbooks prior to Tuesday’s vote. Tweaks to the handbooks were made during a special meeting of the board last week.
“Nobody in this room knows what is in their handbook and now we’re working under these new conditions that we haven’t seen yet,” Kohlhaas said. And their contracts are due today .
Collective bargaining was an easier, less public way for the district and employees to work out issues, she said, and everyone could see all the pieces of the puzzle.
In other business:
Lunch will cost students a little more next year. The board voted to raise hot lunch prices slightly for the 2012-13 school year. Lunch will cost $1.70 for elementary school students, $2.10 for middle school students and $2.40 for high school students. Reduced price lunch for all grades will remain at 25 cents. Extra milk is 50 cents. Breakfast is free at all schools. The cost for adult breakfast and lunch will rise to $1.90 and $3.15.