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Eldred’s high healthcare costs

ELDRED, NY — Escalating health insurance costs were named as one of many contributors to the dismal financial condition of the Eldred school district in a presentation recently made to the board of education and members of the public. The district’s dire financial condition has led to an almost certain series of tax increases as well as the elimination of teaching positions and some programs. The eliminations take effect in the coming school year.

A comparison of the healthcare coverage provided to Eldred teachers and retirees with that provided by other districts disclosed some surprising results. The Eldred coverage is significantly more generous.

The district participates in a consortium of school districts to provide health insurance for its teachers and others to whom health insurance benefits are extended. Costs for the annual premiums have increased 7.09%, 17.68% and 6.98% compared to the prior school year from 2015-2016 to the 2018-19 school year, for which the budget is being prepared.

In contrast to these increases, the agreement between the district and the Eldred Central School District Faculty Association for the period July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2021 (obtained through seethroughny.net) states that employee contributions to health insurance increase by one-half of one percent (0.5%) each year during the contract period. Teachers currently contribute 7.5% of the cost of health insurance premiums. The cost for an individual plan will be $12,132 and for a family plan will be $27,372 this upcoming school year. 

Health insurance costs for the current year are expected to be $2,180,426 or 12.9% of total district expenditures. This represents an increase of 11.41% over the prior year. 

The employment agreement also grants 100% district-paid coverage to retirees. Full coverage is granted to teachers who complete 10 years of continuous service with the district immediately preceding retirement.

This generous retiree benefit used to be the norm, but other districts are requiring that retirees contribute to the cost.

Agreements of other area school districts were also obtained from seethroughny.net. The dates covered by these agreements differ from those of the Eldred agreement, but similar time periods were compared when available.

The current agreement at Sullivan-West CSD states that employees contribute 10% and retirees’ coverage is capped at 100% of the cost of insurance in the last year before retirement. Eligibility is based on a sliding scale ranging from 10 to 20 years of service.

Livingston Manor’s agreement states that in the current year, employees contribute 8% or 13% of costs, depending on the plan selected. For the next school year, that contribution is 8% or 14%. Retirees are covered for 50% of healthcare costs for an individual plan and for 35% of the difference between an individual and family plan, if they opt for family coverage. The information posted for the Roscoe school district covered the school year 2016-17 and reported retiree coverage somewhat similar to that for Livingston Manor. These districts also have a sliding scale of retiree eligibility.

A state comptroller’s report using 2014-15 data showed total costs of $22,658 per student statewide (excluding New York City). Costs per student in the mid-Hudson region were higher at $26,636 per student. Eldred’s current cost per student is about $30,000 per year.  

 

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