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Big insurance hike for school employees

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Big insurance hike for school employees
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

For the past five years, the employees of Detroit Lakes Public Schools have enjoyed a group health insurance plan where year-to-year premium increases "beat the trend" for projected increases statewide, according to District Business Manager Ted Heisserer.

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Not this year. Detroit Lakes School Board members learned Monday that the premiums being proposed by the Lakes Country Service Cooperative for 2007-08 will reflect a 19.9 percent increase over the previous year -- which is above cost trends projected by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota.

The primary reason, according to Heisserer, is a higher number of insurance claims for the 34 school districts in the Lakes Country Service Cooperative pool.

What this means is that the monthly premium for single employees will be $399.50 for a $500 deductible plan, and $320 for a $2,600 deductible plan.

Family premiums will be $1,002 for the $500 deductible plan, and $811.50 for the $2,600 deductible plan.

In previous years, the district has traditionally kicked in a predetermined dollar amount toward those premiums, with the amount being negotiated as part of the employee contract. Heisserer said that most single employees have had their premiums entirely paid for by the district.

However, he added, employee contracts for the 2007-08 school year are still in the negotiation process, and it is unclear whether that rate of coverage will continue.

Despite the increase, school board members approved renewal of the Lakes Country Service Cooperative insurance plan, because comparatively, it's still the best option available, according to Heisserer.

In other business Monday, the board approved the termination and non-renewal of six probationary teaching contracts at the end of the 2006-07 school year.

Contract terminations were approved for the following instructors: Bethany Danielson, Elva Baumgartner, Lisa Pratt, Sheila Welle, Barb Hanlon and Leslie De Nio.

Also approved by the board at Monday's meeting, by a 4-2 roll call vote, was a two-year pairing agreement between the Detroit Lakes and Perham school districts for both girls' and boys' hockey.

Board members LuAnn Porter and Deanna Sinclair cast the dissenting votes. Porter was leery of setting a precedent that could negatively impact open enrollment into the district in future years.

"Detroit Lakes sits in the driver's seat (with open enrollment)," Porter said. "We are fighting for every dollar (of state funding) right now."

With large numbers of students open enrolling into the Detroit Lakes district because of its extracurricular programs, Porter was concerned that a hockey pairing agreement with another district would set a precedent that would decrease those numbers.

"I think this is not the direction I'd like to see our district go in," Porter said.

"I think once you set something like this in place, it's hard not to continue," Sinclair cautioned.

However, Superintendent Lowell Niklaus noted, "I don't feel we will lose kids because of this," or set an unwanted precedent.

Board Chairman Tom Seaworth agreed, noting that similar pairing agreements with other districts or for other sports would be taken on a "case by case" basis.

"In this particular case, I feel it's a good idea," he said, noting that the agreement would only bring 2-3 more hockey players into the Detroit Lakes program.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 14 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 844-1454
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