Teachers to pay higher deductibles
The School Board approved the district's Professional Staff Employee Handbook on Monday, May 21.
That vote included increasing the current deductibles of $250 and $500 respectively for those on the single and family plans to $1,000 and $2,000 respectively for the single and family plans.
The new premiums go into effect on July 1.
"I wish there was another way," Board President Neal Loehrke said prior to the board's vote.
Loehrke and board members Tony Beyer, Dan Kohl and Randy Yorkson voted to approve the employee handbook that included higher health insurance deductibles, while Doug Ehrenberg and Sandy Smith voted not to. Jim Stuebs, who attended his first meeting since being injured in a motorcyle accident on March 18, abstained.
The Professional Staff Employee Handbook covers teachers, guidance counselors, the school psychologist and the school nurse.
Approximately 20 teachers attended the meeting, and several of them spoke about the move to higher deductibles.
"I'm a taxpayer, too, and most of the people here are, too," said Pat Fee, who teaches social studies at W-F High School.
It was six years ago that the district moved to being a self-funded district.
"The idea at the time was to curb health-care costs and trends, because they were increasing, and to be more locally in control of our health-care choices and decisions," District Administrator Scott Bleck said.
Associated Financial Group serves as the district's consultant for insurance-related matters.
"The district has experienced higher medical claims over the past year compared to the previous five years," Bleck said. "Looking at where we are, we need to be able to meet our expected claims for the next year."
Since last year's claims build forward, Associated Financial Group ran a 24-month past actuarial study of claims that forecasts expected claims for the coming year, he said.
"It's a forecast," Bleck said. "That's the part we need to budget for."
The district's maximum unfunded liability is $327,159.
The concept was to split that cost between the district and the members.
Increasing the deductibles to $1,000 and $2,000 results in $157,335.99. After subtracting that amount from the $327,159 maximum unfunded liability, the amount remaining is $169,823, which the district will cover, Bleck said.
Some teachers questioned why the district did not set aside surplus funds from previous years when claims were lower than expected into a fund specifically for insurance.
Bleck said that since the inception of the district's self-funded program, any surplus funds at the end of a fiscal year have been transferred to the district's Fund 10.
"The intent of Fund 10," he said, "is to use that money for a one-time purchase or a capital project."
Recent examples of how the district used that fund include a district-wide telephone upgrade and to help cover the cost of the track redevelopment project.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction specifies the various funds that are required to be used by Wisconsin school districts. All school districts have a General Fund and may have one or more other funds to account for specific activities.
When a district has a positive fund balance, it may use those funds as a resource to finance expenditures of a following fiscal period.
Bleck said, "Any surplus raised in the past went to the General Fund. What the district needs to recognize now is that if there are surplus funds from the health insurance program, that they are in a fund that will help us manage our self-funded insurance, so if we have a year where the claims are expected to be up, we could use some of that money to offset the difference."
The approval of the higher deductibles also includes staff members continuing to have 10 percent copays after meeting their deductibles.
With the current plan, the maximum out-of-pocket expense was then $500 for those on the single plan and $1,000 for those on the family plan.
On July 1, the maximum out-of-pocket costs will move to $2,000 and $4,000 respectively for the single and family plans.
Premiums will decrease with the higher deductibles.
The current monthly premiums are $884 and $1,872 for the single and family plans respectively. On July 1, the monthly premiums will become $820 and $1,735 respectively for the single and family plans.
The district covers 86 percent of the premium cost, and the members pay 14 percent of it, Bleck said.
Fee said he expects the administration to do a better job of managing the health insurance fund.
And, referring to an earlier vote by the board to no longer pay teachers $15 an hour when they are asked to substitute for another teacher during their prep time, he said, "I have 43 minutes to prep for seven class hours."
In February, the board voted 3-2 to continue paying teachers $15 per hour when they are asked to sub in such situations.
On Monday, Loehrke made a motion to delete it from the handbook, saying he believed there had not been discussion on the topic by the full board.
Ehrenberg, Stuebs and Smith were the three board members who voted in favor of keeping that pay in the employee handbook during the board's February vote on the topic.
When it came to a vote again, Ehrenberg and Smith again voted to continue doing so, while Beyer, Kohl, Loehrke and Yorkson voted to delete it. Stuebs abstained.
During the board's discussion about the handbook, several teachers expressed their feelings about the insurance and sub pay issues.
Riley Johnson is completing his first year of teaching art at the high school.
This school year, he spent between $500 and $600 out of his pocket to purchase items for his classroom "to help kids get the education they deserve and to take them to the next level."
On a regular basis, about 15 students are in his room during his prep hour. For them, it is a "place where they are not being told they are dumb, stupid or nerdy," Johnson said.
He said one of Loehrke's daughters is among the students who likes to hang out in his room.
"But, who am I to say," Johnson said. "I'm a first-year teacher here." Deb Storlie teaches special education and said, "We are people. You are breaking all of us. There is a breaking point. This is ridiculous. We care about the students. I sure don't get the feeling you care for us. You are taking away anything you can."
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