Beaver Dam School Board Approves Sweeping Changes To Retirement Benefits

(Beaver Dam) The Beaver Dam School Board Monday night approved sweeping changes to the benefits package for retired teachers. Post-employment health care benefits in the district stands at a nearly $16-million-dollar unfunded liability with around $1-million dollars paid out annually.

Director of Business Services Anne-Marie Woznicki says the new plan will move from a defined benefit to a defined contribution, allowing that contribution to be budgeted at a fixed rate that is not dictated by rising health insurance costs. The board cast a split vote in favor of the changes after an initial vote for a more generous package failed.

The package selected establishes three tiers based on longevity and works similar to a health savings account. Tier One teachers age 53 and older with 18 years in the district as of July 1 of this year will receive a contribution not to exceed $135-thousand dollars for family and $52-thousand dollars for single plans. That is the plan that had previously been offered and district officials say no one that had already met that criteria will see a change.

Tier Two offers a benefit of $110-thousand for a family and $44-thousand for a single plan to teachers who have attained the age of 50 by July 1 of this year and who have taught for at least 15 years, or who have 20 years in the district regardless of age.

Teachers who do not qualify for the top two tiers are relegated to Tier Three, which is a cash payout of $2500 for each year with the district; they will not have access to the district’s health plan. Teachers in the top two tiers are locked in as of July 1 and all other current and future employees going forward will fall into Tier Three.

Around 50 teachers packed the meeting room to voice their opposition to the changes. The common theme from the half dozen speakers was the need to attract quality teachers to the district who will stay here by offering a competitive post-employment benefit. Teacher Angie Vessey says the “current proposal strips some of the best and most invested and dedicated educators of a benefit they considered as part of their investment in the district.”

Superintendent Mark DiStefano called the vote one of the most difficult the board has considered but one that has needed addressing for some time. He says teachers in Beaver Dam have invested a lot more than teachers in comparable districts and he feels badly for those who have been negatively impacted who are getting close to that retirement phase that have to process through this change.