Eau Claire Area School District eyes changing benefits - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Eau Claire Area School District eyes changing benefits due to health care costs

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - The rising cost of health care has the Eau Claire School District considering more changes to retirement benefits.

"The original purpose of the benefit was to encourage early retirement, and that was encouraged as a cost savings move," said Dan Van De Water, Eau Claire School District Business Director.

It started out as a simple plan.

"The theory being that a more expensive, veteran employee could be replaced with a less expensive newer employee... and then that differential in salary would be a cost reduction to the school district," Van De Water explained.

But an evolving market calls for an evolving plan.

"What has happened over time is the cost of those health insurance and dental insurance premiums has increased quite rapidly, quite dramatically," added Van De Water.

That's why the Eau Claire School District is looking at its options.

"Today that cost savings is no longer guaranteed," Van De Water said.

One option would be to freeze how much the school board contributes for dental and health premiums. That would allow the employee to remain on the district's plan until they qualify for Medicare.

"We feel we've already made some major steps already towards alleviating the potential problem," said Andrew Fisher, Eau Claire Association of Educators President.

Andrew fisher is talking about a change negotiated in 2007, the board saved money by changing benefit options for new hires.

"Even with that change, the district has a significant number of employees who are on a defined benefit plan. And that's where the focus of the board is currently; how does the board address the increasing costs of that," Van De Water said.

Fisher says the concern would be employees having to make more concessions.

"If that is taken away before we learn whether or not we're already behind in salary, I worry about the position that puts the district in terms of retaining our best teachers and attracting good young quality teachers," Fisher said.

Andrew fisher mentioned finding out if employees are behind in salary. The school board is having a study conducted to see how Eau Claire stacks up with other districts. The school board will review a variety of options at its next meeting December 2nd.

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