Pierz School District affected by federal health care reform

By Lorae Vardas, Correspondent

Pierz School District Superintendent George Weber is concerned about health care reform and its possible impact on teacher negotiations. “We received rather startling news last week from our flex administrator,” he told the Board at the Nov. 20 meeting.

“She notified us that according to recent IRS interpretations of one of the provisions of the new Affordable Care Act, there will be no allowing of pretax flex dollars that could pay for health insurance premiums other than the one plan the employer offers,” said Weber.

Weber said this IRS interpretation, effective Jan. 1, 2014, applies not only to educational institutions, but all companies and every employee in the country. “It seems like this would be a front page story,” he said, indicating that he has been in contact with area elected officials, including Cong. Rick Nolan’s office.

Because it is an IRS matter, the change indirectly impacts teacher negotiations. Thus far, the board negotiation committee has completed three or four rounds of discussions with union leaders, he explained. “Our challenges are that we will have some increases in health insurance, in addition to the changes to what we can offer staff based upon the National Health Care Reform Act.”

Despite the flex insurance restrictions, Weber is optimistic about a timely settlement. “We all have a vested interest in making our salary schedule attractive for high quality teachers and retaining our best teachers,” he told the board. “I am confident we will reach a compromise that is a good outcome for the district and our teaching staff.”

In related action, the Board ratified a two-year master agreement with the Pierz educational support professionals. The salary package for 2013-2015 gives a 2 percent increase in year one and another 2 percent increase in year two. They also receive a small increase in the district’s contribution to health insurance to help offset higher premium costs.

Pierz School Board Briefs


In other agenda items at the November 20 meeting, the Pierz School Board:

• Approved for posting the 2013-2014 faculty seniority list of the district’s 79 teachers, which is headed by Patricia Niosi, speech pathologist since 1973. Also approved was the Pierz Education Assistants’ seniority list and the roster of volunteer coaches for the 2013-2014 school year;

• Accepted a donation of $500 from the Little Falls Rodeo for the Washington DC/New York City class trip; and

• Accepted the resignation of Emma Nelson, high school education assistant, and hired Lachelle Brinks as a long-term substitute for School Nurse Rachel Young when she goes on family leave.

Because of the Christmas holiday, the School Board’s next monthly meeting was moved to Dec. 18, at 6 p.m. in the Healy High Board Room. The annual Truth-in-Taxation public hearing is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. with the final property tax levy to be certified hereafter.