Page 10 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • July 15, 2009 Mahwah The Mahwah Board of Education recently agreed to support a one-year agreement with the Mahwah Education Association, which represents 435 total staff employed in the district. The MEA ratified the agreement on June 18. The agreement provides for significant one-time savings in healthcare benefits of approximately $1.4 million, upon becoming effective Sept. 1, 2009 and result directly form the MEA’s agreement to change into the School Employees Health Benefits Plan from the current Horizon Blue Cross Program. The savings will enable the district to return all 39 full-time paraprofessional staff eliminated during the most recent budget process. Prior to achievement of the healthcare changes, these positions were planned for conversion to part-time positions, ineligible for healthcare benefits. The net savings to the district after reinstating the full-time paraprofessionals is approximately $300,000. “Operationally, this change eliminates any potential disruption in the classroom related to changing the paraprofessionals from full time to part time. Financially, it produces a significant one-time savings,” said Superintendent Charles Montesano. “Both parties realized that rapid Board, Mahwah Education Association reach agreement conversion to the State Health Benefits Plan would save the monthly difference of $125,000 between the two plans, which was a compelling motivation to reach a quick settlement. I have to credit the MEA for recognizing the impact this was having on our ability to retain the full-time paraprofessional positions.” The one-year agreement breaks form the previous pattern of multi-year contracts, leaving both parties with a compelling interest in resolving long-term healthcare issues. “Both of us recognize that this agreement does not resolve the long-term issues related to rising healthcare premiums, and we have agreed to continue discussions as early as the fall,” continued Dr. Montesano. “The four percent hard cap on tax revenues is real, and unless we can develop improved visibility on all our costs, including labor and healthcare costs, we will have to confront painful personnel changes each year. I am very pleased that, for now, we have eliminated this action.” In summary the major points of the agreement include: All employees will move from Horizon Blue Cross/ Blue Shield to the School Employees State Health Benefits Program (NJ Direct 10). There will be a stand-alone prescription program and employees cannot submit co-pays to major medical for reimbursement. Employees who voluntarily elect to waive health insurance coverage shall be entitled to receive $4,500 per year. Employees who have a spouse/partner working in the district are not eligible for this benefit. The expected benefit to the district is approximately $11,000 to $12,000 per employee who opts out of the benefit plan. It is not known how many waivers will be sought at this time. The overall increase when adding salaries together with the extra service stipends is approximately 4.3 percent. Total salaries for MEA membership will increase by 4.4 percent, an increase which was partially drawn from the savings derived from the change of health care carrier. Salaries for all extra service positions will increase by only two percent. The distribution of increase will be determined by both parties. Kate Stillman of Mahwah has joined Swim Across America to make a splash for pediatric cancer survivorship programs at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The 14th annual Boston Harbor 22-mile relay swim is July 17, and the 11th annual Nantasket Beach one- and half-mile swims are set for July 18. Stillman plans to participate in the 2009 Nantasket Beach swim. “The ongoing dedication and commitment that Swim Across America has shown over the years in raising financial support and awareness for cancer treatment and research is echoed by the compassion and enthusiasm of Township woman makes waves in fight against cancer those who participate in events held all over the country,” sais Christine Reilly, a Swim Across America volunteer. “We are hopeful that one day, we will live in a cancer free world and Swim Across America will have played a major role in getting us there.” Every stroke and dollar makes a difference in the fight against cancer. The Boston Harbor swim is an all day event that starts from behind the Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowes Wharf. Swimmers pledged a minimum of $1,500 to participate. Swimmers taking part in the one and half-mile competitive ocean swims at Nantasket Beach in Hull must raise a minimum of $150 each. Swim Across America is a non-profit corporation that organizes events from Boston to San Francisco to support cancer research at the country’s finest hospitals and institutions. Proceeds from the Boston-area swims go directly to the David B. Perini, Jr. Quality of Life Program at DanaFarber, where experts help pediatric cancer survivors with an array of issues, including long-term effects of treatment, social and psychological concerns and the risk of second cancers. For information, visit ee fr 3-18-09 Janine AtlanticSteward6x6(2-25-09)