December 16, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • Page 3 Franklin Lakes Neither FLBOE nor FLEA pleased with PERC ruling by Frank J. McMahon The Public Employment Relations Commission has ruled that the Franklin Lakes Board of Education cannot unilaterally decide to implement a change in the health benefits plan for the Franklin Lakes Education Association without setting up a fund to reimburse FLEA members for their out of pocket costs associated with going to out of network providers. FLEA represents the teachers, instructional aides, secretaries, and other non-managerial employees in the school district. FLEA asked PERC to grant an injunction prohibiting the board from switching health benefits plans, but the ruling allowed the school board to make the switch in health plans from the Horizon Direct Access Plan to the state’s School Employee Health Benefits Program on Dec. 1 as long as the reimbursement fund is established. Franklin Lakes School Business Administrator Michael Solokas advised that, on Dec. 1, all employees were switched to coverage by the state plan, but the requirement of setting up a reimbursement fund will reduce the savings the district hoped to achieve with the switch in health plans. Solokas said the potential savings from the change in health plans with the reimbursement requirement is difficult to predict, but other districts that have set up special funds for this purpose are still realizing significant savings in their health plan costs. The school board’s health insurance consultant had projected increases in health benefits premiums under the current plan to exceed 35 percent, or more than $1,000,000 in each of the next two years. The board claims the change in health plans will provide the district with the additional cost savings needed to preserve the current educational program while providing the employees with substantially equivalent health benefits. According to Solokas, negotiations between the school board and the FLEA are expected to continue, and a PERC fact-finder is scheduled to meet with both sides on Feb. 23. At that time, the fact-finder will hold a hearing for the purpose of allowing the board and the association to submit their final offers with any evidence demonstrating the fairness of their respective positions. The fact-finder has authority to recommend a settlement, but the recommended terms are not binding. Both parties are responsible for the cost of the fact-finder’s services. The previous contract between the school board and the association expired June 30. Negotiations for a 200912 contract have been ongoing since January. The school board and the association have been deadlocked in those negotiations, with the main point of contention being the health benefits for association members. Donna Luciano, the president of the association, could not be reached for comment. In the past, she has maintained that the state health plan is inferior to the school district’s current health plan and would result in large increases in the out of pocket cost of health insurance to FLEA members. She has also said that FLEA members have a problem with the out of network coverage of the state plan where she claims the out of pocket expenses would rise from $400 and $800 for individuals and for families to $2,000 and $5,000. She has also pointed out that well care visits are not covered in the state plan. She claims the decision by the board to change health carriers on Dec. 1 is a violation of the contractual agreement between the school district and the association. The school district claims the state health program is currently used by many state and local districts, and it is used for retired public school employees. Eighth grade field hockey players Margaret Conley of Goshen, New York and Alexandra Whitehouse of Franklin Lakes were both awarded the Fathers’ Sportsmanship Award at the Annual Fall Sports Assembly at Tuxedo Park School. In presenting the award, Coaches Dawn Kranzo and Elizabeth Betti noted their outstanding sportsmanship, effective teamwork, and skillful play throughout the field hockey team’s successful 6-2-1 season. Teammates share honors JAC K V I C TO R • B U G ATC H I E • T H O M A S D E A N • Z A N E L L A AG AV E • 7 F O R A L L M A N K I N D • P SYC H O B U N N Y • T RU E R E L I G I O N