By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — BEEKMANTOWN — The Beekmantown Central School Teachers and Support Staff unions have agreed to switch their health-insurance coverage to Plan B.
The change, which applies only to active employees, was achieved through union negotiations and approved by the School Board at a recent meeting.
BCSD Superintendent Daniel Mannix told the Press-Republican he applauds the bargaining units for making the move, which will save the district more than 18 percent annually in health-insurance premiums.
“They took a look at ways to safeguard their members and safeguard, really, everybody, and it ends up being truly a win-win for both the district and the unions,” he said.
Until Jan. 1, 2014, the groups will remain on Plan A, the more costly coverage offered by the Clinton-Essex-Warren-Washington Schools Health Insurance Consortium, to which BCSD belongs.
“The district currently pays over $6.4 million in health insurance for active and retired employees,” Mannix said.
The Beekmantown Teachers Association contract is valid for four years and the Support Staff agreement for three.
While switching the unions to the alternative plan, the new contracts also include a Health Reimbursement Agreement, which calls for the district to refund employees for certain deductibles and co-insurance costs.
BCSD will use that agreement to keep employees’ shares of individual- and family-plan deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums the same as they are under Plan A, according to Mannix.
The only change for employees, he noted, will be in pharmaceutical costs.
The contracts call for an average salary increase of 3 percent, including step increases, over the life of the agreements.
Because the district will be offsetting some employee costs, the superintendent said, it’s hard to say exactly how much, in dollars, will be saved as a result of the switch; however, “it’s significant, significant savings over the next four years.”
“We’re really proud of our district for taking this step forward (and) proud of our staff for recognizing that this is a step toward sustainability,” BCS Board President Debbie Passno told the Press-Republican.
The Beekmantown Support Staff Supervisors Association also recently negotiated the switch to Plan B with a Health Reimbursement Agreement.
That three-year contract took effect July 1 and calls for a salary increase of 1.45 percent, plus $495 each year, which, Mannix noted, averages out to a similar increase to that granted in the Teachers and Support Staff agreements.
The district’s confidential and managerial employees are covered by Plan B, as well; though, their contracts have no Health Reimbursement Agreement.
Collective bargaining for the Teachers and Support Staff associations began early this year, and both groups’ contracts expired on July 1; however, negotiations were in impasse at that time.
“They were long negotiation processes,” Mannix said.
In addition, the superintendent applauded the Teachers Association for making previous concessions, including a pay freeze last year that saved the district about $300,000.
CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
Plan B has also been a topic of discussion among members of the Plattsburgh City School Board over the past several months.
At the urging of taxpayers, the board has been considering unilaterally switching the district’s Teachers Association and Civil Service Employees Association members from Plan A to the less costly plan.
Some City School Board members have shown public support for the switch, while others have spoken out against it; however, no action has been taken on the matter.
Though both unions’ contracts allow the board to swap plans unilaterally, representatives from the Plattsburgh Teachers Association have publicly asked that the matter be negotiated.
The City School estimates that switching all active teachers and CSEA members to Plan B would save the district $580,543 annually.
By making the move, Mannix noted, Beekmantown Central’s unions are continuing to lead the way in Clinton County.
“This is really monumental,” he said.
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