Beloit may not be eligible for higher aid

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BELOIT — With Gov. Scott Walker proposing school aid increases, the School District of Beloit may find itself facing a tough decision — assess staff with bigger insurance premium payments or leave the state money on the table.

Walker’s Assembly Bill 64 offers more money — but only if districts are in full compliance with Act 10 requirements for how much employees should be contributing to their benefits.

The governor’s proposal provides additional per pupil aid of $188 in the 2017-2018 school year and $380 in the 2018-2019 school year and in each school year thereafter. The catch is that eligible districts must be requiring employees to pay at least 12 percent of health care coverage costs.

If the School District of Beloit has 7,000 students, for example, it stands to forfeit roughly $4 million over the two-year period covered in the biennial budget, and more millions every year thereafter.

Currently, School District of Beloit employees pay 2 percent of health insurance premiums.

Although Act 10 required local governments offering a state health insurance plan to assess their employees at least 12 percent of the average premiums, the district is self-insured and was exempt from the requirement.

School attorneys around the state and the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials are trying to clarify the act and whether the School District of Beloit would remain exempt through its self-insurance plan. Beloit Executive Director of Business Services Jamie Merath urged board members, administration and anyone else to contact their legislators to support K-12 education.

If the bill is approved, the district would distribute the additional per pupil aid to schools in an amount equal to the number of pupils in the school.

Walker’s bill also requires the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to increase the additional per pupil aid by $12 in the 2017 school year and by $24 in the 2018 school year if the Group Insurance Board’s executives accept a contract to provide self-insured group health plans to state employees for the 2018 and 2019 calendar years.

Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton), a member of the legislature’s powerful budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, said under Walker’s plan as written it appears the 12 percent contribution would be required for all health plans, including self-insured plans. That would be different than current law, she said, which provided a loophole for self-insured plans.

She said the governor’s intent is clear, that he wants Act 10 contribution requirements to apply to any type of health coverage plan including self-insurance.

She said the provision is contained on page 948 of the budget bill (Assembly Bill 64) and states, “. . . the department of public instruction may not pay per pupil aid under section 115.437 (3) of the statutes to a school district unless the school district certifies to the department of public instruction that employees of the school district will be required to pay at least 12 percent of all costs and payments associated with employee health care coverage plans in that school year.”

“It has been six years since Act 10 was introduced. A vast majority of school districts are already meeting the 12 percent contribution level. I support the governor’s desire to see consistency across all districts," Loudenbeck said.

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