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Watkins will save $1.5M over three years

WATKINS GLEN—Changing health insurance providers will save the Watkins Glen Central School District almost $1.5 million over the next three years. The districtwide change has also gotten the attention of the New York State School Boards Association. Executive Director Timothy Kremer said Watkins Glen is a model for what other districts should be doing.
Superintendent Tom Phillips explained that after the first year under the new coverage the school will have saved around $350,000. He added that the change in insurance also saved the school from decreasing hours and eliminating staff positions. Phillips said that in the Civil Service Employee’s Association (CSEA) department hours were almost decreased by five hours per position. The school was considering eight to 13 teacher and three clerical layoffs.
Kremer talked about Watkins Glen, right in the first sentence of his commentary in the May 11 issue of “On Board,” the New York State School Boards Associaion’s newsletter. Phillips brought up the recognition at the Monday, May 18 meeting of the school board, when he first got the newsletter in the mail that day.
“That says something about what we’re doing,” said Phillips. “That’s a first for the district and region.”
The difference between the two coverage plans is that the old one had one set co-pay and the new one has three levels of co-pay. Phillips said the original plan had employees paying $5 to $10 for all prescriptions. The new “three tier formulary” is $5 for general prescriptions, $15 for non-preferred and $45 for preferred. It is with this change that the district will be saving up to $1.5 million.
Phillips said the new plan was ratified with the clerical staff first. He said the agreement was contingent that the teacher’s association also adopt it. By April all of the district employees had implemented the coverage. Phillips said the different insurance options were provided by GST BOCES. When going over the school’s budget, the district was trying to avoid layoffs. Phillips pointed out especially in a county that has one of the highest unemployment rates in the area.
He also explained that this was $1.5 million in expenses the school would not have to budget for in the next few years. When schools are looking at no increases in state aid next year, Phillips said this savings helps them ensure students are getting the services they need.

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