Page 20 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • June 3, 2009 Franklin Lakes School board acts to change employee health plan by Frank J. McMahon The Franklin Lakes Board of Education has passed a resolution that will change its employee health plan from the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield Direct Access Plan to the New Jersey School Employees Health Benefits Program Direct 10 Plan as of Aug. 1. The vote was taken at a work session last week and was unanimous, with one member, Richard Koenigsberg, absent from the meeting. The immediate response of the Franklin Lakes Education Association, which represents 185 teachers, 50 instructional aides, and 10 secretaries in the school district, was that the board’s action violated its current contract and it intends to file an unfair labor practices complaint with the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission. School Board President Carmen Monte explained the reason for board’s action, saying the board’s health benefits consultant originally estimated the district’s health benefits premium renewal increase to be 25 percent over the cost for the current year. She said the board’s 2009 budget was based on that estimate and, as a result, it was forced to reduce staff and programs. Recently, however, Monte said the consultant informed the board that the actual health benefits premium renewal increase would be 41.8 percent over this year’s cost although the school district’s benefits provider agreed to reduce the actual increase to 35 percent. Monte explained that even the 35 percent increase is $290,617 more than the board budgeted for health benefits, and the board does not have the funds to accommodate that increase without further reducing the number of staff members, and reducing many full time positions to part time. “In order to avoid additional staff and program reductions which would severely impact the students,” Monte said, “the board has decided to change (insurance) carriers.” She said the state plan offers substantially equivalent health benefits to the current plan and would result in a substantial cost savings over the current plan and, by reducing the amount the board must pay for health insurance, it is hopeful that it can avoid further cuts in staff and programs. Donna Luciano, president of the FLEA, advised Monte that her association is investigating the legality of the board’s action and she confirmed that they will be filing an unfair labor practices complaint against the board. She disagreed with Monte that the state plan is equal to the current health benefits plan and she provided a comparison chart which indicates several differences including the elimination of coverage for physical exams and well child care, lesser mental health care benefits, and several higher deductibles in the state plan. Several teachers attended the meeting. They claimed the board’s action violated their contract with the school district, Thursday  Friday  Saturday SALE DAYS June 11, 12, 13 & Wyckoff which states that any change in the level of benefits “shall not be instituted without negotiations with the Franklin Lakes Education Association.” Monte said, however, that the board has been advised by its legal counsel that it can make this change based on the language in the contract because the board has been negotiating with the association in good faith. She also pointed out that the state requires 60 days notice to join the plan, and every day the board waits to change plans is costing the school district money that is not in its budget. Michael Solokas, the school district’s business administrator, advised that the switch in plans will save more than the $290,617 shortfall in the budget that is due to the current insurance carrier’s cost increase, even with the potential cost increase in the state plan that is anticipated next year. The school board is currently engaged in contract negotiations with the teacher’s union because their contract expires on June 30. The Franklin Lakes Senior Art Group will be exhibiting their work at the library through the month of June. Watercolors, oil painting, and drawings done in pen and ink, charcoal and colored pencils will be on display. The artists, now in the fifth year of classes, meet at the Franklin Lakes Senior Artists to exhibit work Center under the direction of Pam Leggate. There will be an artists’ reception on Saturday, June 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. Refreshments will be served and patrons will have the opportunity to meet and talk with the artists. For more information, call the library at (201) 891-2224. HARDING WINE SPIRIT Liberty Creek or... ������ Planner 2009 We’re Selling Ridgewood 4th of July Fireworks Tickets. While you’re here, how about some Real Bang for Your Buck! Buy either... Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, White Zinfandel $ HUGE WINE SELECTION Beer • Super Premium Spirits Party Planning • Gift Baskets Free Parking • Ice • Soda WE DELIVER Barefoot Wines $ 305 E. 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