Some Saugerties school employees may be violating insurance rules, must reimburse district, superintendent says (with letter)
SAUGERTIES, N.Y. — Some members of the teachers’ and educational support unions in the Saugerties schools have misappropriated public funds by enrolling in a family health insurance plan for which they were not eligible and must reimburse the district, the superintendent said.
The president of the teachers’ union, however, said the contractual language to which the district is referring may be illegal and has never been enforced.
The school district recently sent certified letters to current and former members of the Saugerties Teachers Association and the Saugerties Educational Support Association that stated, in part, members of the unions may have improperly received family health insurance coverage. The union’s contracts state that if spouses of school employees receive buyout payments from their employers in lieu of insurance coverage, the district employee is only eligible for individual coverage.
“This letter provides formal notice to all current and former unit members that any member who is or has during the past six years been enrolled in family coverage under the district health insurance plan, in violation of this section of the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), is misappropriating public funds,” states the letter, signed by school district Superintendent Seth Turner.
The letter asks current and former union members who are in violation of the contract to inform the district by Sept. 7 and states that once notification has been made, arrangements will be made for the members to reimburse the district.
Teachers’ union President Patrick Reynolds said the legal team at New York State United Teachers has been asked to look into the legality of the contract language. He said the union believes the language is illegal because it allows the contract to dictate what an employee’s spouse does. He also noted that “this article has never been enforced by the district since its inception.”
Reynolds said the language was added to the contract in the early 1990s and that he believes most of the union members were unaware of it.
The letter from Turner asks union members to comply with the contract immediately, but Reynolds said that is not possible because the open enrollment period for health insurance ended in May. He also wondered how this issue applies to district employees who are married to other district employees.
Saugerties School District Health Insurance Letter
School board President George Heidcamp said board members became aware of the issue only recently and took immediate action. He said the board “remains committed to ensuring that taxpayer funds are used only for proper and legal purposes.” Continued...
School district Assistant Superintendent Michael Apostol said each family insurance plan costs about $12,000 more per year than each individual plan.
Apostol said he did not know how many employees may be affected by the issue raised in Turner’s letter.
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