Despite hearing concerns about the district’s new health insurance plan during its June 10 board meeting, the Johnson County School District board of trustees chose to make no changes to the plan.
“In the insurance world, life is just not fair,” said trustee Margo Sabec. “At some point, we need to be satisfied that we’ve done enough for our employees. Even if we tried to fix this, there would be someone dissatisfied, no matter what we do.”
At the start of the meeting, the board heard public comment from two district employees – Kris Thiele, a Clear Creek Middle School math teacher, and Terry Gibbs, the district payroll and benefits specialist – who had concerns about the new insurance plan.
Gibbs said he was disatisfied with how couples employed by the district receive more than $30,000 more in benefits than two single people in the district. Roughly 20% of district staff – including Superintendent Jim Wagner and Business Manager Tom Sarvey – are married to other school district employees, Gibbs said.
“I feel real strongly that all employees need to be treated equitably, and a $30,000 advantage for couples is not equitable,” Gibbs said. “Those couples should get the same as two singles in the district – no more and no less.”
Gibbs went on to say the extra dollars currently benefiting couples in the district could instead be used to pay for air ambulance coverage for all employees and their families.
“We can take those dollars and provide air ambulance coverage to all our employees,” Gibbs said. “It’s not fair for those dollars to benefit just 20% of the employees in the district.”
Thiele spoke on behalf of employees who did not sign up for the district’s plan. She said each employee who opted out of the district’s plan saved the district anywhere from $12,000 to $18,000 a year. She suggested that the district compensate those employees with a $2,000 stipend.
“The decision to increase the compensation package for a select group of employees may negatively affect employee morale,” Thiele said. “I know that my morale went down when I heard that some people in the district will get more benefits than others. It is like the couples get free insurance. Meanwhile, I’m on my husband’s insurance and I get nothing. We feel like we have saved you guys a lot of money and now we are getting kicked under the rug.”
Board member Mike Moon said the school board could consider changes to the insurance plan in the next school year but emphasized the importance of leaving the current plan unchanged.
“Because there are such trust issues from top to bottom in this district, the absolute worst thing we can do is say we voted this way but want to change our decision,” Moon said. “In terms of the trust issue and the perception that we know what we’re doing, it really makes sense to keep things the way they are this year.”
Board members unanimously approved the new insurance plan during their May 13 meeting. The new insurance, offered through the Wyoming Educators Benefit Trust, provides more services to employees – including dental and vision insurance – at a lower premium through a more reliable third-party administrator, Sarvey said. WEBT partners with Blue Cross Blue Shield, while the district’s previous provider – the Wyoming School Board Association Insurance Trust – provided services through United Health.
Despite some staff concerns, the board can be confident the new plan is an improvement for district employees, Moon said.
“Everyone in the district has better insurance than they did last year,” Moon said. “At the end of the day, that’s what matters.”