School union in Liberty defends health plan

By Robert Guttersohn


School-union representatives attended the fiscal commission meeting Wednesday and defended their self-insured health-care plan.

In past meetings, the fiscal commission has identified the district’s health-care plan, in which the district builds up a reserve and pays claims from the reserve, as a place the district can save money by possibly bidding out coverage to third-party insurance companies.

In the past Roger Nehls, the chairman of the commission who was absent Wednesday for personal reasons, said the district pays 49 percent of an employee’s salary in benefits compared with 36 percent in the rest of Ohio.

But Rick Svetlek, vice president of classified employees in the Liberty Association of School Employees and a health-care committee member, said the union had already negotiated about $500,000 in savings last year.

Classified workers are custodians, technicians and bus drivers.

The union always has been willing to negotiate in good faith with the board of education, Svetlek said to the commission.

He said since 2009, the health-care committee’s five members have worked with the board and a third-party consulting group at the beginning of each year before selecting the benefits package in April.

He said the committee will return to negotiations in January.

“We just want people to know we are working with the board of education to keep the costs low,” Svetlek said.

Also at the meeting, schools Superintendent Stan Watson laid out the district’s special- education funding.

Roger Hardin, temporary chairman of the fiscal commission, said the federal government mandates special education but only provides 40 percent of the funding.

Although he said the district values special education, Watson said some of the district’s cash-flow issues stem from Liberty’s requirement to educate students housed in Belmont Pines and New Beginnings, two township facilities that house children with behavioral issues. “When they are placed in that facility, we are the district of service,” Watson said.

He said the district does receive payment from the last-known district of residence in which the special-education student lived “but it could be a year or two years” before that money comes to Liberty.

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