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Ketchikan school board considers opposing SB90

Posted: October 23, 2013 - 12:08am

KETCHIKAN — A bill intended to give the state more bargaining power over school district health insurance costs could leave smaller districts paying more money to participate, school officials in Ketchikan say.

If passed, Senate Bill 90 would require all Alaska school districts to join a statewide insurance pool. The plan would require districts to contribute a set amount despite the marital status or job held by the employee, the Ketchikan Daily News reported.

Ketchikan school officials say such a change would wind up costing them about $1.4 million more a year.

Currently, teachers, who comprise 176 of the district’s 353 employees, get a $1,015 contribution to the health insurance pool. Classified staff, such as custodians, cooks and paraprofessionals, receive a $420 contribution, Comptroller Vicki Wallace said.

The bill would require districts to contribute equally for employees, and it doesn’t differentiate between classified and certified staff.

Schools Superintendent Bob Boyle said the state health insurance plan would be more expensive for employees and the district, would offer less coverage and have higher copays.

District Business Manager Matthew Groves and Boyle said it appears the bill only would benefit Alaska’s largest school districts.

“One of the possible outcomes is that it saves money for the state, but the burden is thrown back onto the communities,” said state Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka. “I would expect the benefits to be to the state and the burden to roll back into the boroughs and communities ... and then to the property owners.”

He said SB90 “needs a substantial amount of financial review.”

The Ketchikan School Board will consider a resolution Wednesday opposing the bill as written.

Bill sponsor Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, said in April the bill would benefit Alaska’s school districts. If all Alaska school employees were in the same system, the state could have more bargaining power, he said.

The Senate Finance Committee could consider the bill when the Legislature convenes in January.

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