November 18, 2013

City School health-insurance debate continues without action

Again, no action on unilaterally changing employee health plan

PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh City School Board took no action regarding employee health insurance at its recent meeting despite a lengthy discussion on the topic.

The notion of unilaterally switching the district’s Teachers Association and Civil Service Employees Association members from Plan A to the less costly Plan B coverage without negotiations has been publicly debated by board members for the past several months.

Multiple taxpayers spoke during the meeting’s public-comment periods, encouraging the board to make a unilateral move.

“It’s wrong, it’s arrogant, it’s fiscally irresponsible not to move to Plan B,” Plattsburgh Resident Ken Baker told the board.

The district’s current health-insurance plan, he noted, “just can’t be sustained by this over-taxed community.”

“This change does not affect any instructional programs,” added fellow resident Jane Barber. “It’s in the best interest of all taxpayers, including those who have retired many years ago … who are on fixed incomes.”

Last month, City School Superintendent James “Jake” Short told the Press-Republican switching active teachers to Plan B would save the City School District $443,494 a year, while switching active CSEA members would save $137,049 annually.

If retired teachers were moved to the alternative plan, he said at the time, the district would save $387,199 each year; moving retired CSEA members would reduce annual costs by $87,199.

However, other attendees of the recent meeting, including retired teacher and former Plattsburgh Teachers Association President Rod Sherman, spoke out against a unilateral switch.

The pressure on both the board and the unions to accept Plan B is unfair to both parties, Sherman said. Plan B is offered by the Clinton-Essex-Warren-Washington Schools Health Insurance Consortium, to which the City School belongs.

“This mess is a result of a majority of (the consortium’s) Board of Directors failure to listen to the insured and make modifications to Plan B that would be of benefit to both the districts and the unions,” he said.

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