SOUTH KINGSTOWN – At Tuesday night’s meeting between the school committee and union, the two parties discussed how to fill the $755,000 school deficient. This meeting was one of the four mediation meetings scheduled in August with mediator John Harrington.
The school committee has asked NEA-SK to collectively contribute $755,000 to the $58 million budget. According to a July 26 letter by school committee chairperson Maureen Cotter, the school’s budget is built on a zero percent salary increase, except for contractual step increases, and an increase in employee health care co-pay to 20 percent.
However, the union made a counterproposal to switch to a HSA, a “Health Savings Account” with a graduated co-share up to 20 percent, allowing for a lower co-pay for new teachers, who make less than veteran teachers.
NEA-SK President Christine Heid said the teachers currently have a co-share with a premium cost of three percent for beginner teachers to six percent for veteran teachers. The school committee proposed increasing that to 20 percent for all teachers.
“When you pay a co-share, it doesn’t reduce the cost of the premium it reduces the cost for employers,” Heid said.
A Health Savings Account reduces the actual cost of the premium. Heid said in the Bristol-Warren School District, teachers pay 21 percent for the family plan and 17 percent for the single plan. Heid explained that with a high deductible, teachers put in $2,000 and the employer, the school committee puts in $2,000. When a teacher goes for a doctor’s visit, first the cost is deducted from the teachers share and then the employers. The insurance company will not have to pay until the medical costs reach $4,001, resulting in a reduced premium, Heid said.
Heid said the union proposed HSA because they believed it reduces costs to the district in the long run. Also, with HSA, teachers would have to contribute $2,000 for a family plan rather than $3,300.
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