Superintendent: Insurance big reason for staff reductions

By Michael Johnson -

GALLIPOLIS — Insurance premium costs paid by the Gallipolis City School District far outdistance state and regional averages while teacher costs are much less, according to a report from the Ohio State Auditor’s office.

“The insurance is the driving force of why we are in the position we’re in today,” said Roger Mace, superintendent of the Gallipolis City School District. He was referencing a recently unveiled financial reduction plan that seeks to cut expenses by up to $750,000 by cutting four teacher and five aide positions, among other suggested reductions.

Auditor of State Dave Yost’s staff conducted comparisons of monthly single and family insurance premiums for Fiscal Year 2014-15, as reported to the State Employment Relations Board.

“Insurance cost is recognized as sensitive to local conditions and, where possible, other local and regional plans provide the most realistic benchmarks for relative price competitiveness,” Yost’s report states. “However, it is important to view both the local and regional plan costs in context of statewide average in order to provide a full picture of the cost of insurance.”

The auditor’s report states GCSD’s monthly single insurance premium of $738.93 exceeds the statewide average of $561.22 — $177.71, or 24.1 percent; the regional average of $664.83 — $74.19, or 10 percent; and the county average of $566.51 — $172.42, or 23.3 percent.

Similarly, the report states the district’s total monthly family insurance premium of $1,995.13 exceeds the statewide average of $1,435.20 by $559.93 (28.1 percent); the regional average of $1,635.75 by $359.38 (18 percent); and the county average of $1,552.65 by $442.48, or 22.2 percent.

Employee costs at GCSD, according to the report, are $50 for single plans (as compared to $72.52 statewide, $74.98 regionally and $30.10 county) and $100 for family plans (as compared to $201.27 statewide, $217.96 regionally and $88.34 county).

The SERB regional employee contribution average, according to the report, is 13.3 percent, which is also inclusive of all single and family plans. All told, GCDS has 141 employees – or 83.9 percent of all covered employees — currently pay less than the SERB regional average.

At GCSD, one employee pays no premium, 27 pay 5 percent, 79 pay 5.2 percent, 15 pay 7.1, 18 pay 10 percent, two pay 14.1 percent, one pays 19.3 percent, 11 pay 25 percent and three pay the full 100 percent. The numbers are inclusive of all single and family plans.

Mace said thousands of dollars per year would be saved if all employees across the board pay the same percentage.

“When you look at this situation, if we would squeeze it down to where everyone pays either 10 percent of 13 percent of the premium, it would save us thousands of dollars every year,” he said. “The time has come that the perks and so forth of having that low-cost insurance is not there anymore.”

Yost said in the report that GCSD’s employee contribution percentages vary because of changes in plan design that have been implemented for new employees over time, while existing employees were grandfathered in at old contribution levels.

Yost’s report says GCSD could save an average of $456,600 each year by reducing insurance premiums and increasing employee contributions to a minimum of 13.3 percent.

Mace said he is looking into an insurance consortium with other nearby school districts – Jackson city and Vinton County school districts have also shown interest – as well as city and county entities to secure lower insurance rates.

“We really need to get to the table and talk about insurance, right away, and how we can save this starting next year,” he said.

Attempts to reach Lenny Poage, president of the Gallipolis Education Association and union representative for all certified employees (teachers), for comment were unsuccessful by press time.

By Michael Johnson

Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.

Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.