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Mequon-Thiensville employees' health premiums to increase 5 percent

Savings could be used to restore academic programs

July 21, 2011

Mequon - School district employees will be required to increase their health insurance contributions from 5 to 10 percent beginning in September. The change, officials say, is an effort to free up more dollars for classroom use, yet offer comparable benefits in a competitive marketplace.

The School Board this week approved the additional pay-in by district staff, which is expect to result in cost savings of about $260,000 in the 2011-12 school year, Superintendent Demond Means said.

"The new savings could be used by the school district to restore academic programs that have been selected for reduction or elimination within the school district's current three-year reduction plan," he said.

Comparing districts

Means said the 10 percent contribution came as a recommendation to the board after reviewing recent policy changes in neighboring districts. For instance, employees in the Cedarburg School District contribute 5 percent toward health insurance. But in Grafton, the contribution has risen to 12.6 percent, and the Port Washington-Saukville district is at 13 percent.

"When you talk about the average, it comes out to about 10 percent," Means said. "We want to use a balanced, measured approach, understanding that we might be back before you, asking to have that percentage increased again."

Residents weigh in

Residents speaking at Monday's meeting offered mixed reaction to the changes with some expressing satisfaction the district is offering a competitive benefits package and others stating administrators should go even deeper into the toolbox created by Gov. Scott Walker's Act 10 legislation.

"Time is of the essence, and you need to use every tool available," resident Patti Schulz said.

But resident Julie Wojcik suggested people consider how the additional pay-ins will impact district employees.

"We're not talking about Bill Gates," she said. "Let's try to be fair to our neighbors. This is a lot that we're already asking."

Means emphasized the district is exploring all its options amid new legislation and the prospect of future budget shortfalls.

"Please don't be confused, we are using Act 10," Means said. "This is all a part of our three-year plan. We're not shying away from that. We have to be able to recruit, retain and motivate our staff members."

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