July 05--Three unions have agreed to health insurance changes expected to save the Altoona school district $300,000.
The switch to a high-deductible plan for teachers, custodians and clerical employees -- who are in the middle of their current contracts -- was agreed to at Monday's school board meeting.
"We're just happy all the groups came to the table voluntarily," schools Superintendent Connie Biedron said. "We reached an agreement that is good for everybody and helps the district."
Teachers had been looking at potential health insurance changes for the past year, school board President Helen Drawbert said.
"We work very well with our teachers," she said. "All of us wanted to look at options to keep money in the classrooms and support the excellent teachers we have."
Drawbert credited teachers with approaching the administration on ways to save money on insurance.
The district is beginning to draft its budget for the upcoming school year, and Biedron said the $300,000 savings on insurance will prevent some budget cuts.
"That money would have had to come from somewhere," she said.
The district adopted a high-deductible insurance plan coupled with health retirement accounts. The district will deposit money into the accounts to help cover employees' deductibles, but the money cannot accumulate like a savings account.
"The employee doesn't keep the money," Biedron said.
The district will cover most deductible costs, Biedron said, leaving employees with out-of-pocket costs of $250 for single coverage and $500 for families. Co-payments for employees also were increased.
Employees' share of premiums will not change, as it is modeled after the 12.5 percent contribution included in last summer's Act 10 approved by the state.
The school district previously had a traditional health insurance plan with $100 and $200 deductibles.
Teachers still have another year left on their current contract. Custodians and clerical staff have two years before their contract expires.
While the three unions agreed to the health plan changes Monday, Biedron said they apply to all 200 district employees.
Biedron started her job Monday, following the retirement of Superintendent Greg Fahrman.
Dowd can be reached at 715-833-9204, 800-236-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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