November 21, 2013

Editorial: Priority for school quandary

Plattsburgh City School Board faces a difficult decision: Does it switch teachers to Plan B health insurance without negotiating the change?

Teachers are covered under Plan A, which has been described to us by people in insurance billing as the best in the area, by far, for recipients.

Plan A was devised through a municipal cooperative agreement, which means area school districts are self-insured, with a team of superintendents creating the health plans that are offered to unions.

In 2005, under pressure from taxpayers to reduce costs, they also came up with Plan B, which has higher co-pays and some other components that are less appealing to recipients, but which is still considered a solid plan with excellent coverage.

Moving active City School District teachers to Plan B would save $443,494 a year; Civil Service Employees Association members could switch for savings of $87,199 a year.

The main objection to Plan B, as far as teachers are concerned, is its three-tier prescription plan, which has no cap on out-of-pocket expenses, according to Rod Sherman, the longtime teachers union president, now retired but still serving as a negotiator.

There is no question, in our minds, that new teachers hired in the district should get Plan B. The economic reality of our times is that all employees in any field have to carry more of their health-insurance costs.

And we feel just as firmly that retired teachers and staff should be allowed to keep Plan A. Those were the conditions under which they entered retirement, and that is what they based their remaining finances on.

The big question, which the City School Board is struggling with now, is: Do you force the teachers who are working now to move from Plan A to Plan B without negotiations?

Some knowledgeable city taxpayers have been pressing for that, and the board should not shrug them off because of their small numbers. Most taxpayers would want a cost savings.

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