R-2 board votes to split insurance costs, raise cap to 50 percent

Roxanne Murphy

After three years of absorbing high insurance premium increases, the Gasconade County R-2 school board said March 19 they will have to split the new cost fifty/fifty with employees.

Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner explained costs were going to increase about 8.5 percent.

“So the question becomes does the cap move 8.5 percent, or zero, or anywhere in between?” Garner asked.

Garner said he attended the consortium meeting a couple of weeks ago when the rates were set.

“The consortium decided to address the plan individually on performance rather than a flat rate,” Garner said. “Plan 3 is our base plan.”

Board President Glenn Ely said there are four options, according to the paperwork. Garner said it goes 50 percent, 75 percent, 100 percent, or zero.

“Option 2 is 100 percent; Option 3 is fifty/fifty; and option 4 is zero,” Garner said.

Ely said both he and Director Nona Miller were in the liaison meeting with district faculty and staff.

“If you were to take that as representative of the building, we discussed not just benefits, they thought — their suggestion was fifty/fifty remedy,” Ely said. “With that in mind, just know that it is a reoccurring expense and once the decision is supported, it’s hard to go backwards.”

 Director Bryan Curtman said there were some schools that left the consortium and had outstanding bills, which left them $1 million in the hole starting off, and there is no bright outlook for some good schools with low losses.

Garner said the consortium is holding the line on accepting new schools at this time.

“So the reason for the increase is the loss of those schools,” Curtman continued. 

Garner said one reason is the normal premium increase and the second is to address the loss.

“The lower plans are performing on par,” Garner said.

Curtman said when he looks at the surrounding schools in our area, they are all in the consortium.

“Typically I would be opposed to burdening the school district with a higher reoccurring cost, but I think the 50 percent cost share is fair,” Curtman said. “Then when I when hear it was well received at the liaison meeting also, I think that’s what I’m going to do.”

Curtman said he feels like fifty/fifty is the right thing to do.

“We have to keep in mind that $350,000 to $400,000 is about half of a percent of your surplus — and it’s gone. We have to think what to do with it for next year.”

Miller, a recently retired educator from the high school, said she thinks as a teacher, the benefit is insurance.

“That is one of the benefits you can bank on,” Miller said. “To me, when you start passing cost along — I know the insurance has gone to toilette in the last few years, but I think that should be one thing you can depend on.”

Ely asked if Miller wanted to go against what the liaison group thought of the situation.

“I am not sure many of them made a comment,” Miller said. “I am not sure that is how the entire group feels.”

Ely said, “it’s the same pile of money, but what happens to it depends on the big picture. Good governance, pay a little more, but the offset is good. Net more money and wonder if they are worse off or better off.”

“I am just saying, to me, that, I go to work to get insurance, then I still have to pay,” Miller said. “It comes out of my pocket, then I am paying less anyway.”

She suggested paying 100 percent.

Director Bill Seamon said he thinks he can live with the fifty/fifty reoccurring costs and, maybe next year, they could increase the contributed percentage.

“One of the single biggest concerns to the district is we are not increasing student population,” Ely said. “So that means we have to be very thoughtful what we do with unpredictable, reoccurring costs. There needs to be excellent practices and the right approaches to budgeting that have allowed us to not address the number of teachers we could support.”

Garner added that a budget meeting he attended at the beginning of March was one of the more optimistic meetings he has attended as far as state funding goes. He also said assessed valuation went up two percent.

Ely read from a prepared motion that they raise the district’s insurance cap by 50 percent. District full-time employees will be responsible for the remainder of the 2018-19 insurance premiums.

Seamon made the motion which received a second from Joyce Lowes. The motion passed with a 7-0 vote. 

Gasconade R-2 is not the only district that was forced to take action and ask teachers to help them with the increased premiums.

During a March 22 board meeting at the Maries R-2 in Belle, directors voted to continue contributing $6,000 per employee toward insurance premiums. However, this coming year, full-time district employees will be expected to pay the remainder of the cost increase.

Superintendent Dr. Patrick Call said the trend is a five-percent increase, and they are looking at 8.2 percent as the average over-all increase; with Plan 1 and 2 having a 14 percent increase and the other plans a 7.2 percent increase.

Both districts previously paid 100 percent of full-time employee healthcare premiums.