School Board delves into benefits packages
Outside consultant says administrators' packages comparable to nearby districts
Brown Deer — School officials have begun an in-depth process of looking into administrators' benefits packages as negotiations take place.
The School Board on Monday met with Bob Butler, legal counsel for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, during a work session to discuss options. The dialogue comes amid a financial landscape filled with uncertainty in healthcare costs and the school funding formula.
The board agreed to begin its in-depth examination in January, following a divided vote in December involving renewal of three administrators' contracts.
Board members Leslie Galloway Sherard, Dennis Griffin, Dennis Lowder and Kathy Stresman had voted to issue contract extensions to District Administrator Deb Kerr and building principals Marirose Lucey and Greg Shaffer through the 2012-13 school year. Board members Barry Godshaw, Kevin Wisth and Lisa Zielinski voted against the renewals, citing a desire to do a short-term analysis of the existing benefits structure.
Market drives benefits
During Monday's discussion, Butler said the benefits offered by the district are comparable to surrounding communities.
"There is nothing that stood out to me … that is different from the area market," Butler said. "I'm not passing judgment. It is what it is. The market drives a lot of what you have."
Board members had broached the topic of tweaking the benefits structure for administrators - a proposal that could include a different premium or deductible from other employee groups - but Butler said such a scenario could have snags because administrators comparatively are a small employee group.
"It's unlikely insurance companies would be willing to do this," Butler said. "It's an added administrative cost for them. Each individual carrier is different, but generally the bigger the employee group, the more flexibility."
Most districts, Butler said, have similar benefits packages for administrators and teachers.
The board's discussion with Butler also delved into a statewide group health insurance plan that had been touted as a means of saving health care costs. While there would be savings as an aggregate if all government entities joined in, Butler said there are a variety of variables from one region of the state to the next.
"It just hasn't been a viable option in southeastern Wisconsin," Butler said.
HRAs can protect
The district in recent years has begun using a health reimbursement arrangement, or HRA, for employees after a specified period of service. Butler said the move is prudent, given the unknowns in the future.
"This protects the school district from medical inflation," he said.
Kerr will receive vesting into an HRA plan in her fifth year of service, per the terms of her contract. She joined the district during the 2007-08 school year.
The board also briefly discussed Kerr's evaluation process, which will take place during the summer, rather than the regular school year, in an effort to offer feedback before a new school year begins.
"I think this will work well because we can concentrate on one thing during a chunk of time," Kathy Stresman said. "I appreciate this process."
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