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RACINE — The health insurance plan for Racine Unified workers will change in the 2023-24 school year.
Most employees will pay more money to be on the school district’s health insurance plan. Educators are concerned about the rising costs, but district officials are hopeful it will be a one-time increase.
In the 2023-24 school year, employee contributions will be tied to the annual projected cost increase of RUSD’s overall health insurance plan and will depend on workers’ salaries.
The projected increase for 2023-24 is 7.2%.
The Racine Unified School District Board voted 6-3 to approve the change during its June 19 meeting.
Board members Jane Barbian, Ally Docksey, Matthew Hanser, Julie McKenna, Brian O’Connell and Theresa Villar voted in favor. Board members Scott Coey, Auntavia Jackson and Sarah Walker Cleaveland voted against.
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Next school year, RUSD workers earning $85,000 or less will pay 3% of the monthly health insurance premium, and workers earning more than $85,000 will pay 4%.
Costs will go up for the majority of RUSD employees, which is concerning to educators who do not want to pay more.
During the June 19 board meeting, Angie Kennedy, Racine Educators United teacher unit vice president, said increasing costs “is an outrageous ask” for staff who are overworked and underpaid.
“This is not a cost-saving measure,” Kennedy said. “This is a cost-shifting measure, moving more of the costs to employees.”
Racine Educators United is the union representing RUSD instructors.
Jeff Serak, RUSD chief financial officer, said cost-shifting to workers is not the intent of the change.
“This was never meant to be, ‘The district is looking to take in more money from our employees,’” Serak said. “We’re not trying to cost-shift any budget issues onto our employees. That’s really not the purpose of any of this. It’s really just to stabilize and level-set the rates.”
Serak said RUSD wanted to lock in the percentages that the school district and workers will pay for health insurance going forward.
“It was hard to find the right level-setting percentage,” Serak said. “We didn’t want the teachers to go up too high. We didn’t want to shift more of the costs onto the employer. We did a lot of different strategies, and this was the one that provided the least increase to our employees.”
The projected 7.2% increase will result in RUSD paying about $2.7 million more on employee health insurance this upcoming school year.
Serak said the district projects to spend $40.5 million in 2023-24, up from $37.8 million in 2022-23.
In the 2023-24 school year, health insurance costs will go up for all RUSD employees except building service employees, administrative staff and clerical workers making less than $85,000 per year.
A BSE, administrative staff and clerical worker on a single health insurance plan making below that amount will have their monthly payment decrease from $30.20 to $25.78.
Building service employees, administrative staffers and clerical workers on a family health insurance plan making less than $85,000 will have their monthly rate decline from $72.12 to $63.72.
Health insurance costs for teachers and educational assistants will increase.
Teachers on a single insurance plan making more than $85,000 will go from paying $23.40 this past school year to $34.37 per month in the upcoming year. A teacher on a family plan making more than $85,000 will go from paying $46.83 to $84.95 per month next school year.
Teachers on a single insurance plan making less than $85,000 will have their monthly rate move from $23.40 to $25.78. Teachers on a family plan making less than $85,000 will have their payment rise from $46.83 to $63.72 per month.
Educational assistants on a single insurance plan making less than $85,000 will have their monthly rate move from $23.08 to $25.78. Educational assistants on a family plan making less than $85,000 will have their costs move from $61.24 to $63.72 per month.
Kennedy, a fifth grade teacher at Mitchell K-8 School, was not surprised the School Board approved the health insurance change.
She understands the school district has financial challenges every year but said workers do, too.
“Health insurance shouldn’t be the thing that breaks all of us,” Kennedy said. “You can’t right-size the district on the backs of the employees who are doing all the work for you.”
For some employees, higher insurance costs will result in less money to pay for gas, groceries and their children’s recreational activities like travel sports teams, according to Kennedy.
Serak said the 8% cost of living adjustment teachers will receive in 2023-24 should help cover the health insurance increase.
Kennedy’s main issue is that costs are tied to annual projected health insurance increases.
“Tying the amount that we contribute to the overall cost of the health insurance plan is terrible, because we cannot control the health care industry,” Kennedy said. “This year, our plan went up 7.2%. What’s to say next year it doesn’t go up 15%, and then we’re just paying more and more and more?”
Kennedy, an REU welfare committee member, said the committee preferred that employee health insurance contributions be tied to teacher salaries, which the RUSD Board can control.
“If they want us to contribute more to insurance, they need to pay us more,” Kennedy said.
Next week, the School Board plans to vote on a salary step increase and level increase for the upcoming school year, which would result in RUSD teachers making more money.
The step increase, also called a rung, is based on teachers’ years of service. The level increase is based on teachers’ educational attainment, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Employee health insurance contributions are reconsidered every year. Kennedy said she asked RUSD if the 3% and 4% rates would go up in future years and was told that the district does not plan to increase them.
Serak reiterated that point.
“For the next year or couple years, that’s what we’re going to go with,” Serak said. “There’s no conversation now about changing those (rates).”
For her and her colleagues’ sake, Kennedy hopes that is true.