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Top Clark County school officials face loss of health care benefits

New legislation that carves highly paid administrators from their union has sent Clark County School District leaders scrambling to craft a workaround that would help keep longtime staffers from losing health care benefits next month.

Senate Bill 241, which went into effect earlier this month, prevents school administrators who earn an annual salary of $120,000 or greater from joining a collective bargaining unit or negotiating contracts with union help.

The prohibition affects 38 district administrators, including several assistant superintendents, department heads and school principals. Some of those officials told the Review-Journal that the group shares a sense of anxiety as they wonder if their health insurance will continue after their existing contracts expire June 30.

With the exception of temporary workers and a handful of top administrators, unions negotiate benefits for virtually all employees in the district.

The union representing the 38 administrators previously negotiated a contract lasting through June 30, but district leaders are uncertain if benefits provided through that contract effectively ended when SB241 became law. They’re certain the benefits evaporate when the contract expires next week.

Also, it’s unclear whether the prohibition extends only to administrators who earn base pay of at least $120,000 or if the salary threshold factors in life insurance, retirement plans and other fringe benefits.

Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said he has asked the Nevada Office of the Labor Commissioner for clarification.

“This impacts the highest level of our administration, and we’re working closely with the union to determine how we will move forward,” Skorkowsky said last week. “We’re working to make sure all of our employees have health insurance on July 1.”

It’s unclear whether the district can or will add the 38 to the health plan offered to the small number of nonunion employees. Skorkowsky said that’s just one of several options being explored.

While insurance is a pressing issue, Skorkowsky added that he also will have to consider what can be done long-term to keep SB241 from hindering the district’s ability to fill those top positions in the future.

But he said another provision of the bill, a three-year probationary period for new principals, has yet to dissuade candidates.

“We’re still getting lots of people applying for those positions,” Skorkowsky said.

As of Friday, the district remained in talks with the administrators’ union to find a solution to what Skorkowsky considers the unintended consequence of SB241.

He said lawmakers intended to separate administrators from unions, not end their benefits.

“At least, that’s what I’ve been told,” Skorkowsky said.

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, the bill’s main sponsor, could not be reached for comment.

Stephen Augspurger, executive director of the union representing district administrators, cited pending negotiations in declining comment.

But three administrators, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, said they had not heard any updates from the district or their former union since Gov. Brian Sandoval signed SB241 on June 12.

Those officials said administrators aren’t fleeing the district because of the new law, but some have taken a pass on applying for promotion or are considering early retirement.

Contact Neal Morton at nmorton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @nealtmorton.

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