SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake Central School District has come to terms on a new, 3-year contract with the union representing its principals and other administrators.
The district's Board of Education approved a memorandum of understanding with the Saranac Lake Administrators Association at the board's Wednesday night meeting. The union represents six people: Bloomingdale Elementary Principal Theresa Lindsay, Petrova Elementary Principal Josh Dann, Middle School Principal Patricia Kenyon, High School Principal Bruce Van Weelden, Assistant High School Principal Paul Leahy and Chad McCarthy, the district's director of special programs. Van Weelden signed the MOU on behalf of the group late last month.
The agreement was crafted by school officials to try and encourage the administrators to switch to a less expensive health insurance plan. Superintendent Gerald Goldman said most of the district's employees are enrolled in the Classic Blue plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield. Its current premiums are $20,500 for a family and roughly $8,000 for an individual. The administrators currently each kick in $1,000 toward a family policy and $500 for a single policy.
"The current plan has been going up, only five percent this year, but it averages about 10 or 11 percent a year in the premium increase," Goldman said. "We've been trying to leverage our employees and persuade them that it's in everyone's best interest to seek a less expensive insurance plan."
The MOU gives administrators incentives to enroll in a less costly PPO-J plan, also from Blue Cross Blue Shield. Its family premium is currently about $1,800 cheaper than the Classic Blue family premium, Goldman said.
"It's a much less expensive plan for us," he said, "and the trend line on that plan is that the cost of it, we believe, will be more stable and less likely to see double digit increases like we have seen in the current plan."
Under the terms of the MOU, if the administrators elect to stay with the current plan, their pay hikes would be zero percent in the 2012-13 school year, and 1 percent each in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. If they switch to a less costly Blue Cross and Blue Shield PPO-J plan, the salary increases would be slightly more: 1.25 percent in 2012-13, and 1.5 percent each in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
The administrators' contributions to their own health insurance coverage have also been incentivized to try and encourage them to switch to the less expensive plan. Those who stay with Classic Blue will contribute 10 percent in 2012-13, 12 percent the following year and 15 percent in the final year of the contract. The contribution for those who pick the PPO-J plan is less: 4 percent in the first year, 6 percent in the second year and 8 percent in the third year.
Goldman said the district believes its employees should be contributing a percentage of their health insurance premiums, not a fixed dollar amount.
"Their contribution was fixed at a dollar amount that never kept up with the percentage increase we were enduring on the premium side," Goldman said. "Our feeling is, fair is fair. If the premium goes up by a percentage you share by paying a percentage."
The agreement takes the more expensive Classic Blue plan off the table for any new administrators. Going forward, new hires will only be offered only the cheaper PPO-J plan. The deal also allows the administrators who don't take health insurance from the school district to get a $2,000 buyout.
"If we get one person that takes the buyout on a family plan, we don't have to pay out the $20,000," Goldman said. "It's a net gain to the district of $18,000 to have them go someplace else and get their health insurance, like if their spouse works for corrections."
While the district now has an agreement with its administrators, it's still in negotiations with its two larger employee unions, whose contracts expired in June.
Speaking at Wednesday night's school board meeting, board President Debra Lennon said the district was making "good progress" and will "have news soon" on its talks with the Civil Service Employees Association, which represents about 80 people: custodians, bus drivers, secretaries, teaching aides, food service workers, maintenance and clerical workers.
Asked about negotiations with the Saranac Lake Teachers' Association, which represents 191 teachers and teaching assistants, Goldman said Thursday that the two sides are still at the table.