School board gets complaint over insurance costs

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MINOT – The work agreement for the support staff at the Minot Consolidated School came under fire Tuesday night before the School Committee had a chance to read it.

No sooner had Assistant Superintendent Marc Gendron given the School Committee copies of the work agreement to review and discuss at next month’s meeting than school bus driver Joe Brown let them know he was not happy with a provision whereby the support staff will pay a portion of the health insurance premium.

“This is actually a pay cut for us. I can’t see why you are doing this to the little people,” said Brown.

Brown pointed out that in the 20 years he has driven for Minot, his pay has gone from $7 to $10.20 an hour.

“In 20 years, that’s only a $3.20 increase; but I always thought the benefits overrode the small pay increase,” said Brown.

Brown noted that many on the support staff – bus drivers, custodians, ed techs and the kitchen staff – are attracted to Minot less for the pay than for the school-provided health insurance policy.

Gendron said the cap on insurance coverage means support staff will pay about $9 a month during the first year of the three-year work agreement but that amount would likely go up in the final two years.

School Committee Chairman Lisa Sabatine said the board would address Brown’s concerns at the May meeting once it has had time to fully review the entire work agreement. She also asked Gendron to find out the pay and benefits provided support staff members in surrounding school districts and forward that information to the board.

In her report, Superintendent Nina Schlikin told the board that she had ordered a freeze on spending. She said Business Manager Stacie Everett calculated the budget has less than $90,000 of unencumbered money with which to finish the school year and strongly recommended an immediate freeze.

Union 29 Director of Operations Gordon Murray thanked the school staff for their efforts to conserve fuel and electricity throughout the year.

“I had some potentially bleak projections last fall. The $7,500 net budget shortfall that I am projecting now is nowhere near as bad as it could have been,” said Murray.

Murray also reported that he expects to have all permits for the new modular addition in hand soon and that groundbreaking will follow.

Principal Margaret Pitts thanked volunteers Pam Pelletier, Judy Rowe and Wendy Simard for their help making the recent kindergarten registration a success. She said that 20 kindergartners have been enrolled to date.

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