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School board delays decision on health care

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act looming, the Manawa School Board decided to seek more information before making any decisions regarding the law.

At its meeting, Monday, June 17, the Affordable Care Act was a major topic of discussion. District Administrator Ed Dombrowski said he met with the 24 employees in the district who work more than 30 hours per week but are not fulltime. He said three of those employees indicated they would take health insurance if it was offered to them.

“The Affordable Care Act is bringing unintended consequences to all districts,” Dombrowski said. “… It’s not just unique to Manawa. However, we are at a juncture right now in which we kind of have to make some decisions.”

Because the law requires any employee who works at least 30 hours per week to be offered health insurance, the district has two choices, Dombrowski said.

“The things that we do know is that our support staff employees, because we are a district with 50 or more employees, we are either going to have to pay for their insurance or reduce the hours below 30. That’s the current law,” Dombrowski said.

He asked if the board was willing to pay for those employees who work more than 30 hours. He also said that if an employee turned down the insurance now, they could take it later if there was a qualifying event.

“When you take a look at the big picture you have to ask yourself about sustainability,” Dombrowski said. “Can we sustain that type of commitment?”

Kent Schroeder, a representative from Auxiant, the insurance provider for the district, presented information about the law to the board.

“This law is filled with unintended consequences and you’re just not going to make everybody happy,” Schroeder said.

“There’s not a whole lot of affordable in it and it has nothing to do with controlling costs,” he added.

He said Brian Adesso, former business manager for the district, had said a decision could be pushed off until April.

“I think that is actually putting off some things,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder gave the board information about what other school districts are doing to comply with the law. He said most are reducing hours to under 30 hours per week.

He said there are a lot of taxes and fees built into the law. He also said items in the law are changing on a daily basis.

The board asked Dombrowski what his recommendation was. Dombrowski said it’s not an easy decision and he didn’t know if there was a right decision, but at least people still have a job.

“I know I heard Kent say that we shouldn’t wait but my gut feeling tells me, for our employees, that I would wait until April,” Dombrowski said.

The total amount of hours needed to complete tasks would not change, so if hours were reduced, more personnel would need to be hired, Dombrowski said.

“I guess I would keep on working as long as we can. We’ll roll the dice that [when we] come to that point we’ll get more information,” Dombrowski said.

“I think right now we need to protect our employees,” Dombrowski added.

The board asked new business manager for the district, Daniel Storch, what his recommendation was.

“I do agree with Mr. Dombrowski that there is not an easy answer,” Storch said. “On one end you are protecting the district, and on the other end you are protecting the employees. I really have to, in my mind, look at what’s in the best interest of educating our kids. Because we have to put out a quality education and if we affect morale enough with our employees then we jeopardize our staff and in turn jeopardize our children. … Maybe we can wait a little bit. I don’t know if we should wait until April. I think we do need to do some more number crunching.”

After receiving the recommendations, board President, Kurt Kreklow said, “I hear you but I think we need to protect the district.”

No action was taken on the matter so more information can be sought.

Board vacancy

The board voted unanimously to table the filling of the vacant board seat for Zone 5 which includes the Townships of Mukwa and Royalton. Board member Paul Sturm was absent.

In an email dated June 6 to Dombrowski, Richard Lowney expressed interested in filling that vacancy. Lowney was present at the board meeting, but Dombrowski informed the board that he could not verify residency as Lowney was in the process of moving.

“The board has obviously two choices,” Dombrowski said. “They can continue on with the process to interview the candidate or we can postpone the candidate interview for another month so that you get time to verify.”

Lowney told the board he would provide them the information they required by next month’s meeting, if not sooner.

Star testing

Karl Morrin, high school principal, presented the Star testing results. He noted that there was improvement in the scores from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

“My feeling is that our teachers are holding students much more accountable, including themselves more accountable,” Dombrowski said.

Morrin added, “I think our teachers are doing a good job.”

MAC bleachers

Jeff Bortle, athletic director for the Manawa School District, presented bids to the board for adding bleachers to the Manawa Activity Complex.

Bortle said one of the complaints about the complex was poor seating. Currently the city of Manawa hauls the bleachers from the fields at the park to the complex. He said these bleachers are not up to code. For the WIAA football playoff game Manawa hosted last year, bleachers also had to be hauled to the complex from the Thresheree because 1,009 seats are required to host a playoff game.

“If this does go through, in the future then we won’t be moving those bleachers,” Bortle said.

Three companies provided bids. The two companies with the lowest bids came in at between $109,000 and $148,000.

Bortle added that for the bleachers to be delivered and installed by this year’s football season, the board would have to approve the purchase at this meeting.

Purchasing bleachers is not in the current budget.

“That was probably a plan down the road to replace bleachers,” Dombrowski said. “We still have a debt for the MAC that has to be paid off. …I don’t like being behind the eight ball.”

“There are other expenses we have to address,” Storch said. “You have to weigh the wants versus the needs. That really is your decision, but I echo Mr. Dombrowski by saying that I think this is more of a down the line project.”

Kreklow informed the board there have been two workers’ compensation claims the last two weeks because of moving bleachers.

When it came time to vote on the matter, the board tabled it.

Band audit

Dr. Brendan Caldwell presented to the board a summary of the band audit he conducted May 6.

He and Dr. Patrick Lawrence were hired by the district and paid a total of $1,250 to do the audit.

The board did not act on any of the recommendations Caldwell had in his audit.

Contract approvals

The board unanimously approved the 2013-14 high school teaching contract for Nate Ziemer, Jr.

It also unanimously approved the contract for Carmen O’Brien to be curriculum director for the 2013-14 school year. The contract calls for her to spend 25 percent of her time doing this job. She will be paid an annual salary of $3,000.

“We’re very happy that she’s willing to do this,” Dombrowski said. “I think it’s something the district has needed for quite some time.

In addition, the board approved O’Brien’s 2013-14 high school teacher contract. This contract calls for her to spend 75 percent of her time teaching chemistry and science. She will be paid an annual salary of $55,353, which is the same as her 2012-13 teaching salary when she spent 100 percent of her time teaching.

Dombrowski said the salary stayed the same because the cirriculum director is an administrative position which generally pays more than a teaching position. The position is also a 12 month position.

Other business:

• Approved changing the Transition Committee name to Employee Relations Committee.

• Approved the summer maintenance recommendations for 2013.

• Approved the Auxiant insurance renewal for 2013-14.

• Approved the student insurance renewal for 2013-14.

• Approved the milk bid from Engelhardt Dairy for 2013-14. Engelhardt has the current contract.

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