Natomas School Board Race: District Benefits

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

SIXTH IN A SERIES

THE NATOMAS BUZZ invited the five candidates running for the Natomas Unified school board to participate in a series of articles wherein they answer questions submitted by readers. Today’s question asked,

“The Natomas Unified School District’s Board Bylaws (BB 9250a) state that ‘The district shall pay the cost of all premiums required for Board members electing to participate in the district health and welfare benefits program.’ For incumbents: Have you elected to participate in the district health and welfare benefits program, and if so, how much has the district spent on this benefit over the term of your participation on the Board? For non-incumbents: Would you elect to participate in the district health and welfare program? Why, or why not?”

Here are the answers submitted by the deadline, in the order they were received:

JAG BAINS
I will decline to participate in the district health and welfare program and will direct the district to send the savings to the classroom. Similarly, I turned down the monthly stipend and free parking provided to city parks commissioners. Public servants are not more important than anyone else. This is a lavish perk most people don’t enjoy. Additionally, I believe Board Members should make the same monthly contributions to their health care plan as our teachers and classified employees. This would keep Board Members grounded and in touch with the healthcare realities faced by many district employees. To that end, I’d introduce a resolution requiring Board Members to contribute to their health care plans and to take a reduced monthly stipend during lean economic times. If the district is in the position of needing to make budget cuts in the future, Board Members should start with their own pay.

CYNTHIA CONNELL
As I did when I was an engineer with both Texas Instruments and Hewlett Packard, and as a Teacher in Natomas, I would opt-in to the health care offered by the district during my term as Trustee. However, this benefit is not the reason I am running for this position. I don’t have a sense of entitlement about this and actually wasn’t aware until a few years ago that this was a trustee benefit. Further, the law caps the amount of coverage available to trustees based on employee maximums, and I think the district should go a step further. NUSD pays the full premium for trustees, but they should offer no more than the same partial premium payments they offer employees. Being a Trustee isn’t a livelihood and shouldn’t come with an expectation of these kinds of benefits. I would consider proposing a vote to reduce this benefit.

GABRIELL GARCIA
I really haven’t thought about it. My family & I currently have health insurance. I guess we would need to weigh the options of our current program & do what is best for the family. It is/was not a deciding factor in whether to run for the trustee position.

 

TERI BURNS
Yes, I do use the health insurance plan to provide for my family’s medical needs. I’m not certain of the current cost, but it is part of the package negotiated between the district and the provider networks. I am a member of a state labor-management collaborative trying to bring health insurance costs down for school employees by reducing broker fees and negotiating rates. Working with our classified union and administration, I’ve shared some of the techniques learned there to bring down costs by almost 25% for classified employees who use Western Health Advantage, saving employees as much as $7,800 out-of-pocket annually. Additionally, because I am well aware of the importance of insurance to cover the unexpected, I’ve sponsored health insurance fairs at our schools so that all of our students have the healthcare they need.