Insurance claim reductions mean bonuses for Roaring Fork Schools staff |

Insurance claim reductions mean bonuses for Roaring Fork Schools staff

A refund from Colorado’s public employee insurance pool due to fewer claims is a little bit of good news for Roaring Fork School District teachers and staff in the form of a mid-year bonus.

The RFSD school board last week OK’d bonuses of $550 each for permanent full-time employees of the district, and a prorated amount for part-timers.

The bonus comes as a result of a refund from the Colorado Employer Benefit Trust, which provides health insurance for eligible employees of school districts, community colleges, counties and municipalities.

In a memo to the school board for its Feb. 12 meeting, Shannon Pelland, chief financial officer for the district, explained that the benefit trust establishes reserve thresholds to ensure adequate funds will be available for the payment of future claims. However, whenever those reserves exceed the threshold for a sustained period of time, the benefit trust board authorizes a refund to its member districts.

That doesn’t happen often, Pelland said, but the district recently received a refund distribution of $433,000.

After discussing it with the district’s interest-based bargaining group for certified staff, the board was asked to use the refund for one-time bonuses to employees.

“The extremely high cost of health insurance in the Roaring Fork Valley is one of the reasons it is difficult to offer competitive salaries to employees as compared to Front Range school districts, which typically pay significantly less for health insurance,” Pelland noted in the memo.

Currently, the district covers premiums for employees working 30 or more hours per week at a cost of over $9,000 per employee, per year.

“(The school district) and (benefit trust) have worked hard in recent years to implement strategies to reduce claims utilization, which have paid off in lower than typical utilization for the past few years,” Pelland also pointed out.

The rebate came because premiums paid by RFSD were higher than the amount required to pay claims.

“Had premium rates been lower, it is likely that wages would have been slightly higher,” Pelland wrote. “Given this, it is logical to infuse these funds into staff wages as a one-time payment.”

The school board approved a one-time, $550 bonus for permanent full-time employees who began employment on or before Sept. 1, 2019. Those starting after that time are to receive a $50 bonus for each month of employment through Feb. 29. Bonuses will not apply to seasonal employees or guest teachers.

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