Press-Republican

October 7, 2013

City School insurance vote on hold

Board mulls switching employee health plan

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh City School Board has yet to vote on whether to unilaterally change district employees’ health insurance.

Though it had the option at a recent meeting of taking action on the matter — which pertains to switching the district’s New York State United Teachers and Civil Service Employees Association members from Plan A to Plan B coverage without negotiations — the board opted not to do so.

Instead, multiple board members expressed a desire to be better informed on the topic before weighing in.

“I’d prefer to have all the information before we vote,” board member Ronald Marino said during the session.

GIFT OF PUBLIC FUNDS?

At the previous session, on Sept. 12, several questions were raised about the legality and implications of making a unilateral switch.

These included:

▶ If the board has the right to unilaterally move the district’s NYSUT and CSEA members to Plan B but does not, could that constitute a gift of public funds?

▶ If active employees are unilaterally moved to Plan B but retirees are kept on Plan A, does that constitute a gift of public funds?

▶ If employees are moved to Plan B through collective bargaining and a compensatory offering were given in exchange for the movement, could that constitute a gift of public funds?

AWAIT ANSWERS

The board also requested an analysis of how Plan B compares to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Statewide Plan since the contracts for both Plattsburgh’s NYSUT and CSEA members state their health-insurance plan must be at least equivalent to the statewide plan.

Though the district reached out to its legal counsel for answers to the board’s questions, as well as its health-care-consortium consultant for a plan comparison, it had not received responses as of its most recent meeting.

“I would reiterate the need to have the proper information available,” board member Fred Wachtmeister said during the same session.

He noted that while he believes a change in health-insurance plans needs to be negotiated, it’s important that questions on the topic be clearly answered.

“We are actively pursuing the information that we need to arrive at some closure,” Wachtmeister said.

‘NEED THE FACTS’

Fellow board member Clayton Morris also stated he felt any switch needed to be made through collective bargaining.

“I think it’s a negotiated item, and I’d like to keep it that way, so I would vote ‘no’ no matter what,” he said.

Still, Morris added, it’s an issue the entire board must weigh in on, “and I’m just making sure we have enough information in front of us before we make a vote.”

Board member Robert Hall also stated he wished not to vote without better knowledge of the subject.

In addition, Marino questioned whether the board would forgo any right it may have to make a unilateral health-insurance switch if it were to enter into negotiations on the matter.

“We have to know the facts so we can make an intelligent decision,” he said.

An answer to Marino’s question is also sought from the district’s legal counsel, according to City School Superintendent James “Jake” Short.

The board is expected to continue its health-insurance discussion at its next meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Duken Administration Building, 49 Broad St.

Email Ashleigh Livingston:alivingston@pressrepublican.com