INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The Indian River County School Board reversed itself Tuesday evening, deciding to phase in increases to retiree health care premiums.
The board in October voted to raise the contributions 40 percent in one fell swoop. Tuesday night, however, they decided to split the increase over two years – 20 percent now and 20 percent next year.
“We are moving deck chairs around on the Titanic,” Board Chair Matt McCain said prior to casting the lone dissenting vote.
He told the School Board that they had already made the decision to increase the contributions, which he voted against at that time, and that many of the retirees have already left the School District’s health plan due to the additional cost.
McCain also said that while he does not believe that active teachers should have to pay for health insurance, the teachers union worked with the district and settled for a 4.5 percent increase to their own contributions.
“They negotiated in good faith,” McCain said, adding that by changing the contribution levels now, “We’re burning that bridge to the ground.”
Outside the School Board chambers, members of the district’s Communications Workers of America Local 3180 picketed, holding signs protesting their own increases in health insurance premiums.
Members standing outside before the meeting said they were upset that they had been told their contributions would increase from the promised $40 to $59.
“No one has won in this issue,” School Board member Carol Johnson said, who brought up the issue at Tuesday’s meeting.
She added that both active and retired employees have accused the other side of not having paid their share for health insurance.
“You have never ever paid your way and that’s very sad,” Johnson said, addressing both sides. “Things have changed. What used to be can’t be anymore.”