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School Board Eyes Health Benefit Caps
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In light of the current financial crisis, Riverbank Unified School district trustees recently discussed proposals to place a health and welfare benefit cap on the non-represented employee groups, namely certificated management, classified management and classified confidential, most of whom are based in the school district office on Seventh Street.

While certificated employees and classified employees already have health benefit caps, management and confidential groups do not and rising health costs are outstripping the district's ability to finance their care. Trustees concluded at the April 7 meeting they will move toward imposing a health and welfare benefit cap on these groups as well, but no action can come into effect until the end of the year.

Local California School Employee Association (CSEA) representatives noted the classified group currently has a cap of about $8,100 for the employee only and teachers and other certificated staff have a cap of about $6,700.

CSEA speakers argued the health and welfare cap should be the same for everyone, classified, certificated and management. But they said they are not talking about health benefits for trustees that have no cap and are fully paid by the district.

CSEA representatives, however, were dissatisfied with the way the board has handled the proposed layoffs of classified employees or reorganization of their jobs and left the meeting talking about the possibility of filing a complaint of unfair labor practices with the appropriate federal agency.

Coming to an agenda item on proposed promotions for three veteran employees, they complained that district trustees should have negotiated with CSEA representatives on the reemployment of laid off workers whose positions had been abolished.

"We're just asking the board to negotiate. They are doing things without talking to us. We don't want to be ignored," said CSEA's local chapter president Dana Rapisura.

Another CSEA representative Carl Hardy claimed the layoffs did not mention the reason as required by law but abolished some classifications and pushed the extra work onto newly created positions.

"Reorganization is not a reason for a layoff," he said. We appreciate you tried to find work for those laid off, but..."

An attorney for the district gave his opinion the board could agree to negotiate many items with the CSEA but the board retained the right to set district programs and staff patterns and therefore determine the need for and amount of layoffs.

Superintendent for Business Ron Costa stated employee groups should bear in mind the district views health and welfare benefit packages as part of employees' pay and regularly compares them with neighboring school districts to achieve some sort of parity.