Insurance issues

Last February, the Washoe County School District made news when district officials, just a couple of months after decreasing employee health benefits because of a budget deficit, turned around and spent $18,000 to give each of these same employees a Rubbermaid container to encourage them to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Really. They did. You can look it up if you don’t recall it.

Anyway, the hubbub from this boneheaded maneuver subsided soon after the news hit the papers. But the struggle by some employees over the decrease in their benefits continues.

Erik Holland, a local artist and school bus driver, has been keeping me informed. Here’s the skinny: The district, because of the impending deficit, ordered employees to accept a lower-quality insurance plan if they wanted to keep receiving the benefits for free. Otherwise, they could pay about $50 per month to keep receiving the same level of benefits. Also, some retirees reported that the district started skimping on payments of previously agreed-to percentages for their health benefits by failing to take the increased premiums into account.

Needless to say, this ticked off a number of district employees, even before the plastic containers arrived. There was also a matter of legality.

You see, most of the district employees are unionized, and under Nevada law, as some interpret it, local governmental agencies (i.e. school districts) aren’t allowed to change such things without collective bargaining.

A number of employees, including Holland, have been fighting this perceived wrong by writing letters and staging protests outside the school district’s administration building. But not all members of the Nevada Classified School Employees Association are fighting the benefits decrease. Holland says they are afraid of rocking the boat and damaging their relationship with Superintendent James Hager and the district’s Board of Trustees over the $50-per-month premium.

Despite the fact that many upset employees are squabbling with each other, the school district has refused to change its stance. To his credit, Hager has tried to answer some of the concerns, personally responding to a letter Holland wrote to district Trustee Nancy Hollinger. His response was that the district’s agreement with the classified employees’ union states that the district will pay a certain amount for health insurance, and that with costs rising, that dollar amount no longer pays for the same level of benefits.

It’s a tough situation, and unless the school district somehow figures out a way to pay for employees to continue receiving the higher standard of benefits for free, legal action could result.

We’ll keep you posted.

I saw one of the most mind-boggling headlines last week on a press release from the city of Reno. Mayor Jeff Griffin, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Criminal and Social Justice Committee, was hosting a meeting of mayors from five states. The topic of discussion: how cities can prepare themselves for possible terrorist attacks.


Interesting. And I will refrain from making the obvious Mapes reference here.

Oops. Maybe I won’t.

And finally, in the spirit of shameless promotions: RN&R contributor Mike Price can be seen doing his stand-up thing next week at Catch a Rising Star in the Silver Legacy. He’ll be there with headliner Jack Mayberry at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. from May 28-June 2. Tickets are $12.95 weekdays and $14.95 on Saturday. Call 329-4777.

I recommend seeing Mike in action. His act is quite good.

Just beware of the petting-zoo llama joke.