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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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Published: Monday, 10/7/2013

Maumee school board, teachers battling over health-coverage changes

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Weeks after they both approved a fact-finder’s report for a new three-year labor contract, the Maumee Board of Education and Maumee Education Association are at odds over whether health-coverage changes in the pact are retroactive to the start of this year or should take effect Jan. 1.

The school board plans this week to begin paycheck deductions for higher insurance premium co-payments, including extra amounts for the next 18 two-week pay periods to cover the first nine months of 2013, that range between $63.69 and $237.82 per month depending on employees’ coverage level and family status.

That collection, the teachers’ union says, is “in direct violation of the new contract” the board and union ratified Sept. 9 and 10, respectively, when they approved salary and health-benefits options from fact-finder Richard Terpinski.

The board’s decision, the union said in a prepared statement, “completely ignores a telephone conference” in which Mr. Terpinski told Margaret Lockhart, the school board’s attorney, that the insurance change was not intended to take effect until next year.

MEA President Stacey Miller said Mr. Terpinski’s intent was demonstrated in part by a line in his report stating, “There will be two options offered to employees” for health coverage. The use of the words “will be,” she said, refers to a future event, whereas a retroactive change would have used the present tense. Mr. Terpinski did not return a call seeking comment Friday, but Ms. Lockhart confirmed the phone conversation described by the union took place.

The school board attorney said, however, that just because the fact finder stated after both sides had accepted his report that he had intended for health-insurance changes to take effect at a certain date does not make that date binding on the school board.

“The agreement is effective Jan. 1, 2013, through Jan. 1, 2015,” Ms. Lockhart said Friday. “The only place [in the report] with a date other than that is in the salaries. With insurance, there is no other effective date.”

Should Mr. Terpinski wish to amend his report, she and Superintendent of Schools Gregory Smith said he must file a request with the State Employee Relations Board, after which both the school board and teachers’ union would have to approve any revisions.

Ms. Lockhart also disputed Ms. Miller’s characterization of the word “will” in the report, saying that it has been used similarly in past contracts without referring only to future events. Ms. Miller said the union had other evidence in support of its position that it planned to present to school district officials today, but declined to divulge that evidence last week.

The MEA’s old contract, which expired Dec. 31, provided three levels of health insurance for staff, with premium co-pays of 10 percent, 5 percent, or nothing depending on coverage terms. The new contract offers two coverage levels, with premium co-pays of 15 percent and 10 percent. Both included caps on employees’ maximum premium contributions as well. Besides health coverage, the contract provides no salary increase this year and 2 percent raises effective at the start of 2014 and 2015, plus experience-based “step” increases.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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