School board votes to raise teacher health insurance rates 5 percent

The Indian River County School Board voted 3-2 to raise employee health insurance rates by 5 percent for the 2019-20 school year during a special school board meeting this month. But how much of that increase school employees will have to pay still needs to be determined.

The school district has been attempting to negotiate a 6.2-percent insurance rate increase with unions representing the district’s teachers and support staff. School officials were proposing both sides split the increase, with the district and employees each responsible for 3.1 percent.

Interim Superintendent Susan Moxley said now that the board has decided it only wants to raise insurance costs by 5 percent, rather than 6 percent, how much employees pay of that amount still has yet to be decided.

“By law, an insurance rate increase must be negotiated first and ratified by the unions,” said Liz Cannon, president of the Indian River County Education Association. “A rate increase can’t be automatically applied; it has to be negotiated.”

Normally, a district first negotiates insurance rates with union representatives and, if employees agree to the terms, that proposal goes to the school board for final approval. But several board members were not in support of a 6.2 percent increase, so they decided to schedule a special meeting to reconsider the overall increase.

It took three attempts before the five-person board could muster a majority vote to approve the 5-percent rate increase. Efforts to pass rate increases of 4.6 percent and 6.2 percent were defeated by 2-3 votes.

Moxley and representatives from AON insurance company were recommending a 6.2-percent rate increase to make sure the district would be prepared for any higher-than-expected insurance claims during the upcoming school year. But some board members were wary, because employees were socked with a 32-percent rate increase two years ago, a decision that outraged employees.

“Everyone has been putting a lot of thinking into this,” Moxley told the board before it started to vote. “A 6.2 percent increase will make sure the insurance fund has enough to cover the claims that will come into us.”

Moxley warned that as smaller increase would be riskier, but when it became obvious there was not enough support for the 6.2-percent increase, Moxley told the board, “I can live with a 5-percent increase.”

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