Board ponders pay raises, insurance rates

By Erika Pedroza | Published Wednesday, April 10, 2013

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Employees of the Northwest Independent School District could see a raise in the 2013-2014 school year, but the potential gain in income could be offset by higher insurance premiums.

During a budget workshop prior to their regularly scheduled meeting Monday, trustees and district personnel discussed a 2-percent pay hike from the midpoint of each paygrade as well as increases in medical plan premiums for employees.

The pay raise, which would cost the district $2,128,620.24, was a suggestion and will be looked at more closely as the budget process continues through May. Employees received a 3-percent raise last year.

“We wanted to give you something to be able to start processing and looking at the total structure,” Gary Gindt, assistant superintendent for administrative services, told the board.

The premium increases, which were approved later in the meeting, range from $4 to $20 monthly, depending on an employee’s coverage level. There were no changes to the dental and vision plan.

Last year, employees saw an average 15-percent increase in premiums and some saw that go as high as 30 percent, depending on their plan selection.

Moving the policy from United HealthCare to Cigna has produced savings in the form of discounts from medical providers, said Kitty Poehler, executive director of personnel services. These savings, along with savings through the district’s prescription benefit plan administrator (Catamaran) and the district’s Health and Wellness Center, have helped recover some of the $1 million the district lost in stop-loss claims last year, she said.

Another contributing factor is a decrease in the number of those claims, from seven last year to just one potential claim this year.

This year, Poehler said, the district has launched an incentive – a personal health assessment (PHA) which would mean a premium reduction. Employees have tests run as a preventative measure “to avoid costs in the future and help them save their lives” and to “assist with disease management in the clinic.”

Those who do not participate in the PHA will pay a fee, but officials added that an employee’s health coverage cannot be terminated based on their status.

Additional changes in the 2013-2014 health plan as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act include 100 percent coverage for prescription and over-the-counter birth control for females, and genetic testing for individuals who have the BRAC breast cancer gene as well as continued coverage of preventative measures at 100 percent, as implemented last year.

“If the American Medical Association says someone of your age should have this as a preventative measure, there are no co-pays, no insurance, no deductible,” Poehler said.

Administrative changes require a 90-day notice on premium or plan changes; a summary benefit notification for each participant, which will cost the plan $1,500 annually; a $1 tax per covered participant; and $63 fee per participant to build insurance networks for individuals who are uninsured, district officials said.

“Despite this increase in premiums, the district remains competitive with surrounding districts as well as the state plan,” said Kyle Copp, executive director of human resources.

At the request of board member Mark Schluter, district officials will consider increasing the district’s contribution to health plan costs.

“Because of our budget concerns in the last biennium, we reduced the amount the district contributed from $260 to $225,” Schluter said. “I’m curious what the cost (of restoring it) would mean to the district.”

Rue said the option had not been included in budget planning but that she’d have district staff crunch the numbers to present at a future meeting.

“It is one way to increase salary without actually having an ongoing salary increase,” she said.

Poehler added that 1,017 of the district’s 1,800 employees are currently on the district’s medical plan, but the number was a “moving target.”

“We lost $22 million (in this biennium),” Rue said. “And by the time we start school next year, we will have added 4,200 more students and have opened four schools, and we will be operating at a total revenue stream that is just now coming back to what it was before we had our reductions.

“You will see we have protected the classroom and classroom instruction, have been lean, and we may use fund balance,” she continued. “But it gives us an opportunity to not have to repeat what we did last year and keep a stable financial packet for our health insurance and compensation for our employees.”


Trustees also discussed several items that will be voted on the consent agenda of their next meeting, Monday, April 22. They include:

  • renewing the third of a five-year contract with ARAMARK as the district food service provider. In order to meet a lunch price minimum set by the USDA’s Paid Meal Equity provisions, lunch costs would increase 5 cents from $1.85 to $1.90 for elementary students and from $2.20 to $2.25 for secondary (sixth through 12th-grade) students.
  • a one-year extension to the contract with GCA Services for custodial work with a 2.1 percent adjustment for increases in the consumers price index.
  • designating Jim Sadler and Rusty Steirwalt as the district’s integrated pest management (IPM) coordinators as required by the Department of Agriculture, Structural Pest Control Board. The IPM plan dictates the type of chemicals and techniques that can be used to administer chemicals and pest control in school districts.
  • a utility easement request by CoServ Electric to establish electrical service at the new sub-varsity stadium at Northwest High School. The easement does not interfere with current or anticipated future use of the campus.

Board members also:

  • approved policy updates as outlined by the Texas Association of School Boards regarding the number of leave days that will be recognized a family emergency for district employees; allowing the district to seek sponsorships for naming rights of its facilities; student attendance accounting; and instructional materials.
  • conducted the first reading of a policy change that increased the standard application fee for ad valorem taxes/local revenue sources from $65,000 to $75,000.
  • recognized the district’s Director of Communications Lesley Weaver, Communication and Media Specialist Emily Conklin and Chief Financial Officer Jon Graswich for awards they received at the 51st annual Texas School Public Relations Association conference in Corpus Christi in February.
  • heard reports on the district’s guidance and counseling effectiveness; energy effectiveness; parent survey results; monthly construction and February financials.

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