Manchester school board to consider dropping health insurance for members [The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester]
New Hampshire Union Leader
May 23—The Manchester school board will consider eliminating health insurance for board members starting in 2024 when it meets tonight at City Hall.
The full board will also consider asking the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to increase the stipend for Board of School Committee members from $2,000 to $4,000 per year.
The new recommendations come after a request that the Manchester School District return to an 80-20 split on the cost of health insurance for school board members — with the district picking up 80% of costs for elected officials — was sent back to committee for more discussion.
Members of the Policy Committee — Leslie Want, Nicole Leapley, Peter Perich, Sean Parr and Jason Bonilla — voted unanimously in April to rescind a motion made in 2019 to approve a 5% annual increase in the cost of health insurance for school members beginning in 2019.
Policy Committee members voted to recommend going back to the previous arrangement, where board members paid 20% of the cost. In January 2022, the split was 60% for board members and 40% for the district.
Ward 11's Leapley raised the issue to board members, detailing how before she was elected she had coverage through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace (ACA).
"When I came on I was floored that I was offered insurance as an employee," said Leapley. Once elected, she was no longer eligible for that plan because she receives health care coverage through the Manchester School District as an elected official with employee status.
"Because we are offered insurance as an employee, it disqualified me for the ACA, which I was qualified for because I was not offered affordable insurance from an employer," said Leapley.
Manchester School District Legal Counsel Kathryn Cox-Pelletier said under the city's Charter, employees of the school district are ineligible to serve on the Board of School Committee, but the Internal Revenue Service views school board members as school employees, at least for tax purposes.
She pointed out the National Labor Relations Board does not classify school board members as employees when it comes to collective bargaining rights.
According to Leapley, at the time she took office — January 2020 — the district health insurance cost $751.17 per month. She said she currently pays $969.79 ($908.97 for medical and $60.82 for dental) — a 20% increase in the cost of medical insurance over 18 months.
Committee members backed recommending eliminating health insurance for school board members.
"So if we're not offering people insurance anymore then, it removes the thing that disqualifies me from the ACA," said Leapley. "So for me, I know I can have that again, and I know that may work for other people, too."
Leapley said she's frustrated by the situation because she had to give up her "cheap health insurance" and that it's costing the city money.
"I felt like why are we both paying more?" said Leapley. "That's super irritating to me and it seemed really silly."
Cox-Pelletier said any vote by the board to immediately change benefits for current members would constitute a conflict of interest under the city's charter. She recommended benefits stay as is until a new board is seated in 2024.
School District Chief Financial Officer Karen DeFrancis said three school board members currently receive health insurance through the district and four receive dental benefits.
School board vice-chair Jim O'Connell said he felt that instead of receiving health insurance benefits, future school board members should instead get a $4,000-a-year stipend, the same amount currently paid out to members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
School board member Leslie Want agrees.
"There needs to be some sort of way of making the two boards equally recognized by the taxpayers," said Want.
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