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Janesville School Board waits on benefits decision

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Katherine Krueger
June 26, 2013

— Janesville School Board members voted Tuesday to postpone approval of district employee benefit policies, and were still not able to make inroads on an employee health care plan that complies with federal law.

Echoing the rationale offered in two committee meetings last week, the board could not move forward without final numbers about the possible financial impact of health insurance changes under the Affordable Care Act, forcing a special meeting on the issue Thursday.

A time and location for that meeting will be announced today.

Because the law makes employees working more than 30 hours per week eligible for coverage, committees last week struggled with how best to comply with the law without taking a major budget hit. This likely could mean some employees would see their hours cut.

Mary Ann Kahl, assistant director of administrative and human services for the district, said administrators still are compiling data on the issue. The deadline to have a plan in place for some employees is Monday.

Although the board approved sections of the employee handbook on inclement weather and leaves and vacation without much debate, members voted to postpone approval of the benefits section saying they wanted more information about the costs of providing long-term disability coverage for all employees.

The proposed handbook section divides employees that would receive this benefit from those who would not be covered, but who could opt to buy coverage by job classification rather than by hours worked.

Board member Bill Sodemann said he would rather see the benefit offered to all or none of district employees. But Superintendent Karen Schulte said the district should not add any new coverage to the budget by extending long-term disability coverage to all staff.

"We'd like to make things more equitable in the future, but not at this time," she said.

The board tasked Kahl with bringing the cost for extending the benefit to all employees to Thursday's meeting.

Board member Karl Dommershausen also proposed changes to community listening sessions, which prompted Sodemann to motion discontinuing future sessions unless a particular issue merits a special public meeting.

Attendance from the public at these sessions is low unless there is a major issue demanding attention, Sodemann said.

All future listening sessions now will be held at 5:15 p.m. on specific days at Hedberg Public Library in an attempt to solicit more community involvement, Dommershausen said.

Schulte also presented on her recent visit to China with other district administrators, saying the trip confirmed her belief that Janesville students should be "globally literate" to be successful.

The board then convened into closed session to discuss setting tuition for international students. Schulte said before going into closed session that talks on tuition have been ongoing for nearly a year, but that she was bringing more information to the negotiations based on her experiences in China.



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