BOE agenda has Jefferson County retirees seeing red
An agenda item proposing a change in dental and eye benefit coverage for retirees of the Jefferson County School system had several past employees speaking out at Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting.
Human Resource staffer Shelby Todd provided a proposal to BOE members that would transfer current benefits received by retirees from the county plan to a state plan.
“It is an issue of manpower,” Todd explained citing 10 steps that must be taken when handling the current retiree plan.
Todd told board members that by changing retirees from the county plan, those retirees would see minimal changes in their coverage. Some of those minimal changes included increased co-pays, slight premium increases and possible changes in providers.
Todd explained that the proposal to phase out the retiree dental and vision plan would be done over the next year with a new plan going into effect July 1, 2018.
There are more than 250 retirees who have the benefits according to data Todd presented. She said that cuts in Central Office staffing have led to the proposed benefit change.
Concerns were immediately raised by Board President Scott Sudduth who indicated that while the need to be more efficient needs to be made while being mindful of the impact on current employees and retirees.
Speaking on behalf of the Jefferson County Association of Retired School Employees, President Betty Jo Walter stressed the need to have the current benefits remain.
“Being one of many who has been helped by Shelby Todd, I share with those others the experience of the value of having a familiar and trustworthy local point of contact to assist us with this local insurance option.”
Also speaking along those lines, former Superintendent Susan Wall, as a former math teacher also, encouraged the Board to look beyond the numbers and the data.
“Tonight I ask you to remember the department which works with benefits is not just Resources Department but Human Resources Department. Please don’t drop the ‘human’ from Human Resources,” Wall said.
Both Wall and former Board member and retired teacher Mariland Dunn Lee reminded the Board that in May 2016, a service position was changed to a professional position which would help provide some assistance to the Todd, the Benefits Coordinator.
Lee said, “Support was approved by the board when a county office administrator requested a reclassification of a position. Why had the help not materialized as promised? Where is the accountability and follow up on the board’s approval?”
Lee went on to say, “Retired educators gave and give of themselves; this is the last way that Jefferson County gives back.”
Walter, Lee and Wall pointed out that the proposed state plan is far different than the current benefits received by retirees. There is no guarantee that a new plan would provide the same coverage, include the same doctors or cover things such as pre-existing conditions.
“Increases and changes in plans may have retirees deciding not to continue dental or eye coverage due to higher costs or reduced coverage,” Lee said. “Costs go up but income does not,” she said. “How sad and callous to put them in that position.”
Board member Mark Osbourn called for a look into advanced technology, possibly a billing system, that may address some of the strain on current staff.
Laurie Ogden, another board member, said that she sees the next step as an opening of a dialogue between retirees and current staff and administrators to find the best solution.
“We recognize there is a manpower issue but we want to see more dialogue and possible resolutions,” Sudduth replied.