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CCSD commits to $9.8 million increase to teacher health care plans

The Clark County School District, for the first time in seven years, will increase its monthly contribution for teachers' health care premiums starting in 2016.

In a surprise move announced late Wednesday, the Clark County School Board directed the district's negotiation team to offer the teachers union a $9.8 million package to increase health care contribution for each employee.

If approved by union members, the district would spend $45 more per teacher, up from about $539 currently, on monthly premiums collected by the union-controlled Teachers Health Trust.

That amount hasn't risen since July 2008 — a fact union officials have used to justify the trust's ballooning deficit.

The surprise decision, which the school board still must vote on in public if teachers accept the offer, comes less than two weeks after the union unveiled a controversial plan to overhaul its financially beleaguered health trust.

The board remains skeptical of that proposal, but union leaders applauded its decision to increase the monthly contribution.

"We are glad to see the district has agreed to that," said John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, which represents teachers.

"It's a step in the right direction," he said. "We understand the district's concerns moving forward — we share the same concerns — in terms of us making sure we can provide the best quality care that money can buy and at the same time manage the situation so we have a very good health insurance plan."

A spokeswoman for the district did not clarify how the district will pay for the $9.8 million. It has struggled to close a $67 million budget shortfall for the 2015-16 school year.

The spokeswoman also could not say whether district officials expect the trust to remain solvent until Jan. 1, 2016, when the contribution hike goes into effect.

Union officials recently asked the school board to approve a proposal to allow a local health care delivery firm and third-party administrator to take control of teacher health plans to save the trust from financial collapse.

With revenues far exceeding expenses, the trust's $7.6 million deficit last year is projected to soar to $20.7 million in 2016.

In a news release, the district clarified that the board still had not approved any substantial changes to teacher health plans and "continues to negotiate the compensation and salary package with the various bargaining units for all district employees, including teachers."

"After receiving a considerable amount of feedback from our teachers about the burden of increased health insurance costs, the Board of School Trustees has agreed to provide the additional contribution requested by the teachers' bargaining unit toward their health insurance for one year," School Board President Linda Young said in a statement. "Keeping in mind the challenges and volatility of the Teachers Health Trust, the Board of School Trustees will continue to regularly monitor the state of the trust for consideration in the next negotiation period.

"While offers to include our teachers into the district health insurance have been repeatedly declined by the teachers' bargaining unit," she added, "we understand the urgency to provide relief to our teachers' insurance and want to make sure our teachers have good quality health insurance for themselves and their families."

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

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