Limited by current budget problems, the Clay Community Schools Board of Trustees discussed capping health insurance premiums and raises for administrative and non-teaching personnel at Wednesday night's special session.
"It's time to establish some fiscal responsibility towards this and the upcoming budget," Board President Steven Grigsby told the audience at the start of the meeting. He said that any action taken at next month's meeting would not affect anyone during this school year, and the board would re-evaluate the issues again before August of 2006 to ensure that the decisions were in line with the budget.
"It is unheard of for people to have 100 percent insurance coverage" with no deductibles, board member Ted Jackson said about the present insurance coverage in place for some staff members. "I urge the public to talk to their neighbors and see what their insurance plans are. They will not find anyone with that type of coverage."
In an effort to control the skyrocketing costs for what is considered a "Cadillac" policy in the insurance industry, the corporation wants to set a flat dollar amount per policy cap on premiums and defer the rest of the cost to the policy holder. The ever increasing premiums over the last three years are beginning to outdistance the new funds the corporation is receiving from the state. It is a trend that will only continue, according to the administration, which expects an increase in next year's insurance premiums of 20 to 24 percent.
"There are only so many expenses we can control," board member Len Fischer said about a budget that is in trouble. "We don't have a choice but to cap insurance premiums. When the vote comes I will support it only if we have a condition to review the policy annually to see if we can pay more money towards benefits."
Jackson voiced his concern about the impact of changes in the health insurance premiums for the retired administrators.
Retirees receive single health insurance coverage until they are eligible for Medicaid or Medicare. If a retiree chooses coverage for their family, the difference for the family plan is paid by the retiree. After a brief discussion regarding these benefits, it was decided that retirees health premiums would not be changed at this time.
"We don't take away (benefits) or give anything to the retired staff," Grigsby said. "If someone retires under a set of expectations, I wonder if we should leave them alone."
The rest of the board members agreed, but recognized the issue may have to be addressed.
"I agree, but we can't afford anything right now," Fisher said about the increasing cost of insurance premiums. "This problem isn't going away."
Superintendent William Schad pointed out that previous insurance increases were paid for by the board's decision to lay off employees and teachers.
"We've lost 30 good teachers trying to get a handle on this problem," Grigsby said of the cause for teachers working with more students in larger classroom sizes.
For the December meeting, the board requested the administration present an agenda item detailing the flat dollar amount to be used for the cap of all health insurance premiums for administrative and non-certified staff members. Also Grigsby asked the administration to create a benefit package for next year, including various health insurance plans and other benefits, as another option the staff can use to change their policies for their own benefit.
The Clay Community Schools Board of School Trustees will act on this issue at the next scheduled public meeting to be held at the North Clay Middle School Media Center on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m.