Changes are coming to the health insurance offered by USD 373 employees — this year those changes will be increased contributions from the board of education for employee insurance plans.

The board voted 4-2 to add $75 to the contributions made for each insurance fund — nearly an additional $393,000 in expense for the board in the next budget.

Renee Erickson, Steve Richards, Matt Treaster and Carol Sue Stayrook Hobbs voted in favor. Barbara Bunting and Dick Koontz voted against. Tim Hodge left the meeting during the vote, as his wife participates in the district insurance plans. 

In the 2015-16 budget the district contributed a total of $1.8 million to staff insurance plans.

“These are things we felt like we could sustain, or we would not have brought them to the board,” said superintendent Deb Hamm.

The change was brought on by increases to health insurance premiums, and the need to remain complaint with the Affordable Care Act affordability clause.

To maintain current healthcare coverage for employees, the district would see a minimum of 20 percent increase in premiums. Some companies showed increases of nearly 50 percent, and joining the state plans would have been an increase of 50 to 60 percent.

Following a meeting with employees, it was decided to not change insurance carriers, but to start education on what options like a Health Savings Account could mean if the district moved that way in the future.

Monday the board looked at multiple options for changing contributions to employee plans — ranging from adding $50 per plan to $75 for a single plan and $50 to others.

“I believe that our employees deserve the $75,” said Barbara Bunting, board member. “I am concerned with the use of one-time funds to do this.”

About 75 percent of the employee participants in the district insurance plans are in a single plan.  Currently 437 employees participate in the district insurance plans.

The district has a special reserve fund, with about $308,000 within it, that could be used to help soften the blow this year.

“Once we use that money, it will not be available again,” said Carol Sue Stayrook Hobbs.

Miller suggested budgeting a similar fund in the next budget for future increases to insurance plans. 



In other business:

• The board elected Dick Koontz as president of the board, Barbara Bunting as vice president.  The board also discussed the length of those appointments. The board will elect new officers next July, even though board of education general elections have moved to fall. State statute governs the election of board officers, and did not change to reflect the change in the general election calendar made by the Kansas Legislature.

• Reappointed Russell Miller as clerk, and Joni Jantz as deputy clerk of the board.

• Reappointed Jane Nichols as treasurer of the board.

• Approved policy revisions recommended by the Kansas Association of School Boards.

• Adopted a substitute teacher handbook.

• Approved year-end transfers.

• Preformed board reorganization duties.

• Approved staff handbooks for Chisholm Middle School and Newton High School.

• Reviewed a transportation handbook.