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School board talks health insurance pool at February meeting

Tea Area school board members spent considerable time at their Feb. 8 meeting talking about health insurance.

Superintendent Jennifer Lowery, board president John Herr and two members of the Tea Education Association (TEA) went to a meeting in Huron, S.D., last month about health insurance.

They were told they have to vote at their March meeting whether or not to keep the small schools – schools that have less than 50 people on the payroll – in the Northern Plains Insurance Pool. In order to comply Affordable Care Act (ACA) rules to stay full funded they need to kick out the small schools. They could keep the small schools and become self-funded. Lowery said Tea Area is one of the large schools and there are 23 small schools in the pool.

Lowery said if the pool voted out the small schools, it would reduce the number of people participating in the pool greatly. Herr said any changes that happen would not take effect until July 2017 but they need to vote in March so districts can start planning their health insurance plan for 2017.

Business manager Chris Esping and office coordinator Wendie Morehead have been meeting with local insurance agents to see what options are out there. Esping has reached out to Sanford for a meeting next week.

School board members expressed concerns over how they could make a decision without knowing the risks involved. The board will have to make a decision of how the district should vote at its March 14 meeting before representatives go to the March insurance pool meeting.

During the consent agenda, Esping notes that several funds were negative, however, some of that was due to bond redemption or checks that have not cleared. She also noted that there were a number of car reimbursements for staff that submitted mileage to and from Frontier Elementary. She said this was new this year and staff can submit mileage at the end of each semester.

Esping also presented a trust and agency annual report that shows what each student group has fundraised and what they planned to spend the money on or spent the money on.

Lowery presented information on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosure mandate. Whenever an entity authorizes a bond, they have to report. School districts across the nation have had the same issue of coming into compliance because they self report. The board approved a resolution to authorize Herr to act on behalf of the school district in making sure all audits are up to date and reported on the SEC’s website.

Esping updated the board on the scoreboard maintenance agreement. They will do a three-year agreement.

Clair Willemssen, construction manager for the Tea Area School District building projects, said winter weather continues to be a challenge for construction at Legacy Elementary. Xcel Energy dropped off a backhoe Feb. 8 and plans to hook up to the transformer this week. He said they need that permanent power up so they can get other equipment going. Drywall is ongoing in the commons area. Ceramic tile should be going down in the bathrooms this week. Some classrooms are being painted. The front sidewalk is poured and almost all exterior door and window frames are in place. Teachers and staff had the chance to tour the construction last week. Willemssen heard many positive comments. The new completion date is the end of March.

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