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THE TORCH: December 2005

THE BOTTOM LINE

     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

               Kingston Teachers’ Federation 

                  Promises Made, Promises Kept”

     This is an anniversary month for the KTF. Most of you will not be aware of it, but it has had a tremendous impact on your lives and has enabled us to achieve professional and career levels once thought impossible. It was ten years ago this month that I was introduced to Joseph Fiegoli of National Health Administrators. He presented a plan and a vision for health care and promised that he would produce for the KTF the best health care plan in the state of New York. To this day, he has kept his promise and the benefits of our health care have enabled us to achieve to the highest of professional compensation levels. And, although we were challenged on many fronts, he and his company were always there to guide, support, and enable us.

     In 1995, the district presented their contract proposals of a zero salary increase and a 25% contribution to our health insurance. As the health issue was a major issue in delaying our previous contract settlement for two years, we had begun to investigate self-insurance. The district’s position moved our study to action.

     Among the group that were interviewed, he was the only one who presented a plan with existing partnerships in prescriptions, major medical pre-certification, compliance, and stop-loss insurance. He was the only one who was aware of new legislation that mandated health coverage for newborns and parity for mental health conditions. He was the only one who advised us not to compensate him with a flat rate. He informed us that the percentage of savings would be huge and that the Trust and the members should be the beneficiaries of these savings.

     In 1997, the district attempted to compensate us for only 80% of the premium as they had failed to disclose their 80% agreement with Blue Cross. We went to arbitration and Mr. Fiegoli was at our side. He provided the data, experts, legal support, and experts to present for the KTF at the hearing. It led to a settlement.

     He had the vision to prepare a PPO network when other providers were only learning about it. When new laws arise, he prepares plan amendments and modifications. We receive plan reports on a regular basis.

     In 1999, actuaries provided by Mr. Fiegoli notified us that within a year, the established funding formula would not support the plan. We notified the district. As it was a time of negotiations on a new contract, we demonstrated how the plan had saved the district millions over the three years and was a worthy program. A Board of education member alleged that our funding concern was the result of an ‘expenditure issue’ rather than a ‘revenue issue’. We knew that was a lie and Mr. Fiegoli and his team worked for one solid week and at considerable expense to provide the evidence to disprove the allegation. The Board member resigned, but the district continued the assault. The district’s attorney, aware that the district had refused to respond to the actuarial report and that the Trust could not afford to disband, tried to bust the Trust. Mr. Fiegoli and his staff drew up a proposal for the KTF that was eventually acceptable to both sides.

     For the most recent contract, Mr. Fiegoli prepared a study going forward that demonstrated how we could maintain and increase our benefits, accept no health insurance premium increase this year, rebate the district a million dollars over the next three years, and assume the dental at 40% of the cost. This savings provided the substance for a significant contract settlement.

    For the past ten years, National Health has provided a $1000 scholarship for a graduating senior. On two different occasions, the committee was deadlocked on naming a winner and Mr. Fiegoli awarded two scholarships.

     . Ten years ago, Joseph Fiegoli responded to our call, assessed the concerns, and presented a plan with an honest promise. His expertise, attention to detail, personal commitment and his word have been his bond. It’s said that those who make promises are apt to forget. Joseph Fiegoli made honest promises and those promises have been kept and we have all benefited.

     And, that’s the Bottom Line.

 

               HEALTH, DENTAL UPDATES

     Domestic Partner health and dental coverage was negotiated into the new teachers’ contract and will take effect on January 1, 2006. The Fund’s Trustees have adopted the Amendment and Modifications and they are included in the application packet.   Members who desire applications should contact Miriam White at the Trust office.

     Domestic Partner coverage for retirees shall be the same as for active employees, including changes in status.

     Additionally, the Trustees approved for all retirees who purchase dental insurance that the cost of coverage will be 2X the single premium if there are no dependant children. Previously, the district mandated that two person plan retirees have a family policy. This change saves those members $300 per year in premiums. Otherwise, the dental plan is a replication of the benefits of the previous Blue Cross plan, including a clarification. As per the previous plan, new dentures and bridges are not covered, but the repair of existing dentures and bridges is covered. The Trustees will make no changes in the dental benefits until an actuarial study is completed on the plan.

     The complete Amendment and Material Modifications are available on the Kingston Trust Fund web site.

OPEN DENTAL ENROLLMENT: If you are an active teacher who didn’t sign up for dental or as a retiree never purchased dental, there will be an open enrollment through January 31, 2006 with coverage as of January 1, 2006. Contact Miriam White at the Trust office for an application.

            

               SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?                                              

     Article III, (A), (10): “The current $25,000 retirement incentive will continue to be available to eligible teacher unit members in their initial year of eligibility into the NYS Teacher Retirement System or the NYS Employees Retirement System. It is understood that all members of the bargaining unit who have already passed their initial year of eligibility to receive the incentive under this provision will have a one time opportunity to avail themselves of this benefit by submitting a letter of retirement to the Superintendent by January 31, 2006, with a retirement effective June 30, 2006.”

     Unused sick days are paid at $60 to a maximum of 205. Both the incentive and sick day monies are payable to a 403 plan. During the spring, KTF will arrange a meeting between the 403 provider and the retiring members. After the incentive and sick day monies are deposited in the 403 account, the member may access the account. Taxes are paid only when the money is withdrawn.

     Members with greater than 205 unused sick days should consider donating days to the Moore Days Sick Bank NOW. “Retirees with maximum accumulation-upon retirement or separation or days beyond the maximum payable may donate up to five (5) days per year for employees hired after January 1, 1997 and a total of (50) days for employees hired prior to January 1, 1997At the time of retirement or separation.” Contact Glenn Gallagher at the George Washington School for donation applications.

     Teachers are encouraged to access www.nystrs.org for additional information. Additionally, members considering retirement should schedule an appointment with their personal representative at the retirement system. Call now, as appointments tend to fill up after the first of the year.

                                             VOTE/COPE

     VOTE/COPE is the political action arm of NYSUT. Donations are voluntary and are performed through payroll deduction, in equal installments, from the last 10 pay checks of the school year. The KTF 2006 VOTE/COPE campaign will begin in just over a month. KTF encourages members to donate an amount equal to the first digit of their salary with a zero added. (i.e.,$42,560= $4+0 or $40.)Members who wish to change their donation level must secure a new deduction form from their Building rep. New teachers and those who have not donated in the past will be personally contacted by Building reps and are encouraged to enroll. Retirees have a fall campaign and just completed their 2005 drive.

     Last year, the KTF donations totaled over $20,000. NYSUT uses the monies to lobby for legislation that supports education and our profession. Support of education and your profession is most appreciated.

 

                         125 PLAN—ON THE WAY

     The KTF teachers negotiated agreement calls for the implementation of a 125 Flexible Spending Plan, commonly referred to as a cafeteria plan. The district studied five proposals and has recently selected Ryan Insurance as the administrator of the plan.

     125 plans use pre-tax dollars to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses and dependent day care services. Member’s monies that are dedicated to the plan must be used or they are forfeited. Ryan Insurance will be on hand to host informational meetings regarding the 125 Plan.

     The anticipated start-up date will be January 1, 2006.