Press-Republican

Education

November 11, 2013

City School Board debates insurance

PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh City School Board is not legally obligated to unilaterally change employee health-insurance coverage from Plan A to Plan B, district officials say.

“There is no legal compunction forcing the board to switch to Plan B,” City School Board member Fred Wachtmeister said in a written statement that he recently provided to his fellow board members, as well as the Press-Republican.

The treatise describes a number of reasons he would oppose the change in plans should it come to a vote.

LEGAL OPINION

The board, which, at the urging of taxpayers, has for several months been discussing the possibility of unilaterally switching the district’s Teachers Association and Civil Service Employees Association members to the less costly Plan B, recently sought opinions from insurance consultants and legal council on such a move.

In addition to questioning whether it could legally make a unilateral switch, the board asked for a comparison of Plan B to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Statewide Plan, to which both groups’ contracts state their insurance coverage must be at least equivalent.

The board also asked whether opting not to unilaterally change plans could constitute a gift of public funds.

“With advisement provided, and not to disclose specific privileged attorney-client communications, it’s accurate to state that nothing legally or contractually precludes the Board of Education from unilaterally changing all current and retired teachers and CSEA employees health-insurance (to Plan B),” City School Superintendent James “Jake” Short told the Press-Republican in an email.

‘DISPARATE IMPACT’

Still, he noted, “there is nothing legally or contractually that compels the board to unilaterally change these employee groups’ health insurance at this time.”

In his treatise, Wachtmeister also stated that changing plans would have a disparate impact on employee groups.

“CSEA active employees would suffer a greater loss of total compensation than members of the Plattsburgh Teachers Association,” he said. “This would amount to a drastic change in CSEA terms and conditions of employment.”

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