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Madison teachers to pay a bit for health insurance premiums

By   /   June 28, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

MADISON, Wis. — The Madison Metropolitan School District voted Monday night to require teachers and other staff members to contribute to their health care premiums to offset a 2.7 percent increase in insurance costs for the school district.

Teachers will be contributing 3 percent of their premium costs to help cover the $1.6 million gap. Other staff members will contribute to their premiums on a progressive scale based on how much their employee categories earn on average.

Photo by James Wigderson

BUDGET TIME: Madison school board members approved the 2016-16 budget Monday night. The budget increases the tax levy 2.49 percent and requires teachers to contribute to their health care premiums.

While board members complained about the teachers having to pay anything, the premium is a pittance compared to what most Wisconsites pay.

Nationally, employees who receive health care coverage through their employer pay an average 18 percent of the health insurance premium cost for single coverage and 29 percent for family coverage, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. In Wisconsin, the average employee contribution for single coverage is 21 percent, and 22 percent for family coverage.

To soften the blow for staff members who are not receiving raises in the coming year sufficient to cover the employee’s share, the district is taking $300,000 from the maintenance budget for a one-time benefits stipend for those employees. That budget change passed 5-0, with TJ Mertz and Anna Moffit recusing themselves. Overall, the budget was adopted 6-0, with Mertz abstaining. The board also voted unanimously to increase the tax levy 2.49 percent from $281,158,559 to $288,172,085, a $7,013,526 increase.

Board member Dean Loumos, while supporting the budget, said he still didn’t think the stipend went far enough to offset the employee share of the health insurance premium. “My preference was that we somehow made the raises a true raise, and that we added money for the first year so that the payment of it would have been on top of the raise,” Loumos said to the board.

Budget presentation slide from the Madison School District

GIVE A LITTLE BIT: Teachers would have to pay between $40.54 and $53.58 per month for health insurance family coverage under a new proposal approved by the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education.

The health insurance premium contributions by teachers would be the first since the passage of Act 10 in 2011. Prior to this budget, only school administrators contributed to their health care premiums. Act 10 ended collective bargaining over benefits for public employees, including health insurance.

During the debate over Act 10, Madison school teachers staged a four-day “sick-out” to protest the legislation. On Monday night, no teacher spoke in opposition to the 3 percent premium contributions.

Prior to the vote on the budget, Mertz announced he would be abstaining because the flow of information to the board was not as timely or as accurate as he would have liked. “Not because I think it’s a bad budget, because I think it’s a good budget and I appreciate the work and the professionalism, but because I don’t think that, and I think it’s on us, that we didn’t do everything we could to come up with the best budget,” Mertz said.

After the votes for the transfer of money from the maintenance fund and the tax levy increase, board member Ed Hughes said that the state’s revenue limits prevented them from spending as much as they wanted to serve staff and students. He suggested the board consider going to referendum to exceed the state’s revenue caps.

SEE RELATED: Madison school district to raid maintenance budget to offset health premiums

“Next month we really have to start talking about a referendum so we don’t get in this position next year. Because we don’t know what the state budget is going to be in terms of revenue limits in the following years,” Hughes said. “We can also anticipate that there will be restrictions potentially placed on referendums in the next couple of years. And so, in November, it may very well behoove us to go to referendum in order to provide ourselves the flexibility to be able to provide the quality of education that our community wants to provide to our students.”

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James Wigderson is a Wisconsin-based reporter for Watchdog. He is also an online contributor to MacIver Institute and RightWisconsin, blogs at the Wigderson Library and Pub, and was formerly an award-winning local columnist for the Waukesha Freeman. James is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors. He lives in Waukesha, WI, with his wife Doreen and their children.