Skyrocketing health insurance costs compound Moffat County School District budget woes | CraigDailyPress.com

Skyrocketing health insurance costs compound Moffat County School District budget woes

Moffat County Education Association Co-presidents Mariah Doolin and Kristin O'Connor address the new board at Thursday night's school board meeting, as other teachers, MCEA members and student supporters stand behind them at the packed meeting. Doolin and O'Connor asked for board members to make themselves accessible to the public and voiced their support for Moffat County School District Superintendent Brent Curtice and the district's goals, mission and vision.

— Both Moffat County School District and its employees will be footing much higher health insurance bills in 2016 than in 2015. How that burden will be shared between employer and employee was the topic of much discussion at Thursday's Board of Education meeting and work session.

Overall insurance costs are projected to increase at least $827,497 for the 2016 calendar year, and under current board policy, school district employees would have shouldered about $305,000 of that cost.

The policy, amended in 2011, stated that employees must pay 100 percent of the cost of dependents, excepting a small group of grandfathered staff, currently numbering 15. Grandfathered employees must pay the full cost of coverage for their first dependent, after which the district picks up 75 percent of the cost for additional dependents.

The board voted to suspend the policy Thursday night, allowing the district to offset the increase in health insurance costs to employees on family plans, who would've seen rate increases of about $500 across all three plan options under the policy. The total projected increased cost burden to employees is about $174,000 with the suspension of the policy.

"I know we have heard from some teachers that are concerned about staying if they can't afford the family plan," said teacher and co-president of Moffat County Education Association Mariah Doolin. "They flat out can't afford it being a new teacher."

The board voted to approve the plan options, which adds a third plan to help employees navigate increasing costs. The high deductible plan will actually cost employees less than this year's high deductible plan — $45 per month for an individual plan compared to $55 per month — but the deductible and out-of-pocket maximums will double from 2015 numbers. Employees will also have the option of a plan that costs the same as current rates and another plan that will cost more.

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Overall, "there will be minimal change in their monthly out-of-pocket premium expenses, but significant changes to their deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket expenses," said district Finance Director Tinneal Gerber.

Open enrollment for district employees begins Nov. 30 — only 11 days away — and several board members expressed regret that there wasn't more time to consider plan design or to look for other cost-saving measures.

"We've come down to the wire," said board member Sue Voloshin. "I am very concerned about the district taking on that much more and it will have to come from somewhere else (in the budget), because it's not sustainable."

Gerber acknowledged that the district has dipped slightly below the 28 percent reserve the district is required to keep according to its own policy. The district's 2016 health insurance costs are anticipated to be more than $2.3 million, an increase of more than $650,000 to the district compared to 2015 costs. The increase is significantly more than the $217,000 increase that was projected as of May.

"This basically pushes our budget deficit spending up to about $1 million," new Board President Darrell Camilletti said.

Board members expressed unease about the additional cost, which piles on top of other additional expenses for the current school year including re-opening the Maybell School and introducing iPads. Gerber also acknowledged that actual costs could be even more than current projections.

"The message to employees is we absolutely support you, we know you have to have sustainable income and sustainable insurance, but we also have to have a sustainable district, and have to look at how to balance those things," said new board secretary Charity Neal.

During the remainder of the meeting, the board also did the following:

• Heard an audit report from Certified Public Accountant Paul Backes with McMahan and Associates, who found no significant issues in the school district's accounting.

"Your numbers are exactly, materially the same as our numbers, and that's critical because it means the information you guys get can be relied upon to make financial decisions," Backes said.

• Unanimously elected board member Darryl Steele as treasurer of the board, and voted to appoint Gerber as assistant treasurer to the board. Gerber had resigned from the position of treasurer to the board.

"I've struggled this last year with being your voice," Gerber said. "I think for this board to move forward, you need somebody else to be your voice for your treasurer."

• Voted to hold a special meeting at 8 a.m. Nov. 30 to vote in new policy to replace the suspended policy regarding health insurance, followed by a board retreat.

• Voted to change the December meeting date from Dec. 10 to Dec. 14 due to scheduling conflicts.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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