Franklin Lakes October 14, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • Page 5 School board to change health plans in December by Frank J. McMahon The Franklin Lakes Board of Education decided to implement a change in the health benefits plan for the Franklin Lakes Education Association, which represents the teachers, instructional aides, secretaries, and other non-managerial employees in the school district. Effective Dec. 1, the benefits will be provided by the state’s School Employee Health Benefits Program. The district is currently served by the Horizon Direct Access Plan. The previous salary contract between the school board and the association expired on June 30, and negotiations for a 2009-12 contract began in January. The school board and the association have been deadlocked in those negotiations since then, and the main point of contention is which health plan will cover the members of the association in the future. According to the school board’s health insurance consultant, the projected increases in health benefits premiums under the current plan are expected 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. FLEA has alleged that the board committed an unfair labor practice in trying to change health plans and has requested the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission to grant an injunction prohibiting the board from switching health plans. According to a recent statement released by the school district, the decision to implement the change was made by board after a recent six-hour unsuccessful contract mediation session with the association, which resulted in the state-appointed mediator invoking fact-finding. PERC will now appoint a fact-finder who will hold a hearing to allow the board and the association to submit their final offers with any evidence demonstrating the fairness of their respective positions. According to the board, the fact-finder has the authority to recommend a settlement, but the recommended terms are not binding upon either party and the costs for the services of the fact-finder are the responsibility of both parties. Donna Luciano, the president of the association, said her organization has not received official notice from the mediator that they are moving forward to fact-finding. She maintained that the state health plan is inferior to the district’s current health plan and would result in large increases in the out-of-pocket cost of health insurance to her members. She said FLEA members have a problem with the out-ofnetwork coverage of the state plan where she claims the out-of-pocket expenses would rise from $400 and $800 for individuals and families to $2,000 and $5,000. She pointed out that well care visits are not covered at all in the state plan. “The decision by the board to change health carriers on Dec. 1 is a violation of our contractual agreement,” Luciano said. “The board has shown no respect for the negotiations process and their staff by not allowing the process to continue according to collective bargaining law. This unilateral change to move us out of our current health plan will definitely have a chilling effect on all FLEA members.” (continued on page 29) Wyckoff Russell G. Grimm Financial Advisor Looking for a Chiropractor? HAVE 401(k) QUESTIONS? 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