Reminder: The Clay Community School Corporation's Board of Trustees will have two meetings on Monday, Sept. 18, at the Media Center of the North Clay Middle School. A public work session is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. while the budget hearing is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.
By IVY HERRON
The Clay Community School Corporation's Board of Trustees attempted to cut 5 percent from increasing insurance costs by changing insurance benefits for administrators and non-certified employees at Thursday's meeting.
The apparent lack of communication and information about the proposed changes created confusion among the board members and frustration among the administrators and non-certified employees (office staff, custodians, bus drivers and etc.) at the meeting.
Portions of the revised proposal stated there would be no salary increases at this time; the health and vision insurance network would be changed to United Healthcare Network; some plan benefits would change, but the plan will remain with Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) Trust for coverage and individuals must sign up for insurance coverage (closed enrollment) or, if applicable, they could choose a stipend no later than Sept. 30.
Another area of concern was for non-certified single employees and bus driver single employees. Their insurance premiums will change to a higher 80/20 percentage split.
"No one wants to make these tough decisions, but we have to in order to maintain the financial health of the corporation," Superintendent Dr. Dan Schroeder said. "You can't keep doing the same old thing and expect things to change."
The ISTA Trust guaranteed a 25 percent cap on rising premiums for this year when it became the health insurance provider for the corporation. Without the cap, the corporation could have faced an increase of 38 percent this year -- more than $800,000 in health insurance premiums instead of the present increase of more the $600,000.
If the board does nothing about rising insurance premiums, Schroeder said the administrative and non-certified employees would absorb the full 25 percent cost increase.
"We can't continue to not do anything" he said. "We've got to act now."
Changing to the new network provided by United Healthcare will lower insurance premiums by 5 percent while still retaining 90-93 percent of the physicians available in the current network provider. (Physicians not currently listed could be retained by United Healthcare, the second largest healthcare network in the nation, after approval by the board.)
Other proposed changes could lower the costs of premiums as well, but the board never voted on them because of the initial confusion.
While everyone agrees all employees in the corporation need to be on the same insurance plan, several board members voiced frustration at the "Band-Aid" approach used in dealing with the issue.
"We're doing a disservice to these people," Ted Jackson said.
Terry Barr said she was upset the board, knowing that health insurance premiums have become an annual problem, didn't start looking at solutions earlier.
"We seem to do this each year," she said. "With our backs against the wall, we hurry up and make a decision to get it done without finding a real solution."
The haste to make a decision is creating the potential for resentment among employees.
"I think it is unfair that administrative and non-certified personnel have taken hits to correct the financial position of the corporation," Grigsby said. "Right now we have a hodge podge of insurance plans for employees. I just don't think it's right to vote on something that the people it affects the most don't know about."
During a discussion about changing the network provider several administrators in the audience interrupted to say they had not seen the information being discussed and wanted copies, which were supplied.
Whenever a quick fix to a budget problem was needed in the past, the administrative and non-certified personnel salary and benefit packages have been among the first items be considered for cutbacks by the board.
"We have roots here, we're dedicated and loyal to our schools and students. We're willing to take a hit for the team, we've done that before," Jackson Township Elementary Principal Jeff Fritz told the board during the meeting. "It just would have been nice to have known about these changes before now."
Dr. Schroeder said the reason for the late notification happened because the corporation was only notified recently about the option to change the network provider.
Time is of the essence because the window of approval only lasts until Sept. 30, according to Schroeder, who urged the board to make a decision at the meeting. The board rejected a vote and decided to have a public work session next Monday before the scheduled special session on the budget at 7:30 p.m.
Frustrated by lack of information and understanding of proposed changes in their insurance, administrative personnel refused to comment after the meeting.
"We don't want to make a decision without allowing them to be able to ask questions and have input in the matter," board president Dottie King said about the confusion after the meeting. "It's one thing to be told what will happen, and its an entirely different matter when you're asked your opinion about something. I hope those effected by this will show up Monday to ask questions and participate in this process."
As for the position of the Clay Community Classroom Teachers Association, president Russ True says the group has already accepted the new physicians network and has agreed to remain on the current ISTA insurance plan.