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School district employees see wage increase

After deliberating in closed session Monday night, the Somerset School District Board of Education reconvened in open session and unanimously voted to increase all district employees wages by 2 percent. However, that wage increase will come with a price tag of sorts: higher health insurance deductibles.

“We had to make some compromises,” Board member Marie Colbeth told an audience of teachers. “It’s never an easy thing to say ‘hey, we have to increase your deductible,’ but without that there would be no wage increase. I’m sorry for the changes to enable that.”

Colbeth went on to say she’s proud the district was able to finagle a wage increase at all, considering enrollment has fallen flat in the district the last two years. An enrollment not increasing coupled with other ever-rising costs is not a good budget combination, Colbeth said.

According to a memo by District Administrator Randy Rosburg in the board meeting packet, the health insurance renewal came back with a 9 percent increase. The district, however, changed the plan so the actual increase for 2014-15 is an overall decrease of 2.7 percent for the district and 3.4 percent for employees. But, this raises the deductible for a single person from $3,000 to $4,000, and for a family from $6,000 to $8,000.

Middle school instructor Lorri Baillargeon spoke on behalf of a non-unionized group of teachers that has formed called the Teacher’s Association. She said teachers were disappointed at the lack of opportunity to meet with board members to discuss the wage and deductible increases.

“We asked for that meeting and it didn’t happen,” Baillargeon said. “We were very disappointed in that. I hope the positive relationship we’ve had for many years will continue and that not meeting with us I hope was an oversight.”

Colbeth apologized for the apparent oversight, while board member Kelly Ott said she never heard any requests to meet with the Teacher’s Association.

Baillargeon pointed out in sections 7.01 and 7.02 of the employee handbook, which state the board is required to meet with employees concerning regulating pay.

Rosburg reminded those present that he held a series of Meet and Confer meetings prior to the end of the school year. In a memo, he says the purpose of the meetings was “to share with employees the plan for providing benefits and wages for the 2014-15 school year, to receive their feedback from individuals on this plan and to hear from individuals what other ideas they might have… .” Rosburg said those not attending the meetings provided feedback via phone and email. The Teacher’s Association is acknowledged in the memo with a vague statement: “The ideas from the association were discussed.”

Baillargeon said she was present at all three Meet and Confer sessions, but feels the teachers and board still don’t understand each other’s points of view as well as they might have.

The district’s contribution to employees’ health savings accounts will remain the same at $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for families, while the employees’ contribution will increase from $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families to $1,500 for individuals and $3,000 for families annually.

Premiums will decrease for the district and employees alike by about $20 for individuals and $40 for families.

District dental insurance

The board voted 5-2, with board members Bob Gunther and Kelly Ott dissenting, to approve the district dental plan for 2014-15.

The district was providing 100 percent of the coverage costs for dental insurance for employees. The new plan requires employees to make a 10 percent contribution, with the district paying 90 percent.

Other business

  •  The board approved the resignations of Sara Turner as assistant high school cross country coach and Krisann Saalborn as special education aide.
  •  The board approved fall coaching and advising assignments for 2014-15, athletic and activity fees for 2014-15, and meal fees for 2014-15.
  •  The board approved the district providing short-term and long-term care disability insurance as an optional benefit to employees.
  •  The board approved the 2014-17 technology and media plan.
  •  The board approved Neola governing policies 6,000, 7,000 and 8,000.
Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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