By jeanne starmack
Liberty School District has settled a contract with its employees that includes joining a health-insurance consortium, and that will save money, said the superintendent.
Superintendent Stan Watson told the district’s state-appointed fiscal oversight commission, formed when the district went into fiscal emergency in July 2011, that the move will save at least $1.5 million over the life of the three-year contract with the Liberty Association of School Employees, which includes teachers and classified (nonteaching) employees.
The commission met Tuesday morning at Liberty High School.
Under the old contract, the district was self-insured and had to have $2.3 million allocated for liability, according to Vindicator files.
Watson said there is $800,000 in the fund right now.
Watson said he was pleased to tell the commission the contract was ratified.
“It did take some time, but you have been very patient,” Watson said.
The old contract expired in 2009, according to Vindicator files. Watson said talks with the union, which includes teachers and classified employees, began in July and ended Aug. 21. The new contract does not include pay raises, but it allows the district to enter a consortium to buy health insurance that includes 27 other districts by Jan. 1.
Watson also said the district will not replace some employees who resign.
Paul Marshall, chairman of the oversight commission, said the move to a consortium is a good one.
He asked the commission not to approve the new contract, however, until the panel has time to review it.
The commission is still allowing the district to proceed with the negotiations regarding the consortium.
Marshall told the Vindicator that risk is diluted if the district is part of a bigger group.
He said large school districts could self-insure with less risk.
“But this is a small district with few participants,” he said.
The commission has asked the district to give it a revised five-year financial forecast at its next meeting Oct. 23.
He said the new contract will have a major impact on the forecast, so the district needs to revise it.