School to cover insurance increase

By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL


The Washington School Board approved paying an increase in the employee health insurance premium at the meeting Wednesday evening.

Before this decision was made, superintendent Jeff Dicks spoke to the board about the increase in the premium and how the changes to the collective bargaining law were affecting the district.

?So we have a 10 percent increase in health insurance,? superintendent Jeff Dicks said. ?This is an important item to all employees in the district. Last year with the changes with collective bargaining we talked about it on the side even though it was an illegal topic.?

Things got confusing during negotiations with the district?s employees because the district had two different numbers they were working with, one with insurance included and one without it.

?We worked through it,? Dicks said. ?It?s fine but I think because of the position we?re in just to alleviate that and not talk about it on the side I?d like to recommend we just address this on the front and then hopefully that is the way we handle it every year.?

He suggested the board addresses this before negotiations with employees, so the 221 employees know it?s taken care of, he added. The increase for the next school year is $117,116, and he recommended the board approve paying that increase.

Board member Stephanie Ellingson, who is on the negotiations committee, said with the new collective bargaining law in Iowa the only thing that can be discussed is salary.

?Even though health insurance is a big piece of the entire compensation package, and so whether or not any individuals agree with that, it doesn?t matter because it?s the way the law reads now,? she said.?I am in support of doing this again to make things a little bit easier to understand in terms of what we?re dealing with when we go to negotiations because this has already been determined.?

Board member Troy Suchan is also on the negotiations committee.

?It?s a big change for everybody,? Suchan said. ?We?re so used to that all being a part of the deal and we talk about it and now they?re telling us not to talk about it. Like Stephanie said, I think it is better to just take care of it and you?re done with it.?

He also said he wasn?t sure how other distircts were dealing with it, but because of the new collective bargaining laws ? this is how the districts have to deal with it.

?So to be clear, the district is picking up that 10 percent cost?? board member Jason Hamilton asked Dicks.

?Yep,? Dicks replied.

?So none of that cost falls on any of the staff members?? Hamilton asked.

?No, assuming you approve it,? Dicks said.

The board approved paying the 10 percent increase of the health premium unanimously. Board member Heidi Vittetoe was absent.