Local briefs

Posted: Friday, March 08, 2002

District grants more for insurance premiums

JUNEAU - The Juneau School District will pay more of its support staff's rising health insurance costs, officials said today.

The district will increase its monthly contribution from $496 to $550 per employee, Superintendent Gary Bader said. The School Board directed him to do that during a closed-door meeting after Tuesday's regular board meeting. Union officials didn't have an immediate comment today.

The roughly 260 members of the Juneau Education Support Staff faced monthly payments of about $228 from their own pockets starting in April. Affected workers, who now pay nothing for their health insurance, said the payments would take a big chunk out of their income and drive some of them from their jobs.

Many of the support staff, which includes custodians, teacher aides and administrative aides, make under $14 an hour, the union has said.

"This doesn't close the gap fully," Bader said of the district's increased contribution. "We continue to meet with the employees to continue to pursue adjusting benefits and taking other steps to make the (insurance) plan more efficient or more affordable."

District and union officials on a health insurance committee met today, Bader said.

The monthly premiums for Blue Cross and Blue Shield coverage would rise from $496 to nearly $724 because of the medical costs from five serious illnesses or injuries over the last year, union officials said. Without financial help from the district, nearly all of the increase would fall on workers.

Lifejacket rule for children starts soon

JUNEAU The Coast Guard will require children under age 13 to wear lifejackets in recreational water vehicles nationwide beginning March 29.

According to a Coast Guard press release, between 1995 and 1998 more than 100 children 13 and younger died in water-related accidents.

Adults, who are responsible for children on board a vessel, will be fined $100 per child for the first offense and up to $1,000 for every offense after that, the agency said.

All recreational boats must carry one wearable lifejacket that is Coast Guard-approved, in good condition and the appropriate size for the user, for each person aboard, the agency said. Any boat 16 feet and longer, with the exception of kayaks and canoes, also must carry one throwable personal floatation device.

Wearable and throwable floatation devices must be readily accessible and not stored in plastic, in locked or closed compartments or have gear stored on top of them, according to agency.

The Coast Guard recommends boaters wear a life jacket at all times, although it isn't required.

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