Derick Williams

Cheatham County resident Derick Williams gives some comments to the school board about its proposed budget.

Cheatham County teachers’ health insurance plans have a new structure after the school board passed its updated annual budget last Thursday.

Under the new budget, teachers will receive a 2 percent raise but most will also have an increase in health insurance costs.

For the districts’ three non-family insurance plans, which are for a single person, a single person with children and a married couple without children, the percentage of insurance covered by the employee will be less than 55 percent, chief operations officer Tara Watson said. Those who select a family plan, however, will pay for 55 percent of their coverage

“This new option is beneficial to everyone but the families?” board member Jennifer Hamblin asked during the meeting.

Watson responded that she felt that was a fair assessment. Currently, about 30 percent of the teachers are on the family plan, Watson said.

The approved adjustment to the insurance plan uses the cost of the single person policy and applies that amount to the other plans, reducing the percentage covered by teachers, Watson said.

As an example, Watson explained that if the single plan cost $600, and the employee and spouse plan cost $1,000, the cost of that plan was determined by subtracting $600 from $1,000.

“We did that on all of the plans all the way through, the only one that mathematically it doesn’t work out for is family,” she said.

The new method creates three totally free policies for those who select the “single person” insurance plan. The hope is that this will incentivize teachers to switch to that plan, Watson said. For an additional incentive, the district will pay 100 percent of all dental and vision insurance for employees who choose to decline any health insurance plan.

Before the school year begins, the board of education intends to spend time at schools, helping individual staff members choose the best plan for them, Watson said.

Before the adjusted insurance plan was approved, Hamblin made a motion to remove the 2 percent raise from the budget and keep health insurance costs the same for a year.

“You’re talking about compounding the situation,” board member Kimberly Messer said about the motion. “Putting it off a year could make teachers suffer even more if insurance goes up.”

Hamblin’s motion failed by a 4-2 vote. The motion to adopt the adjusted insurance plans passed unanimously.

Teachers respond

Melanie Buchanan, a teacher at Harpeth Middle School, expressed frustration with the ongoing budget struggles.

“We understand that schools have been underfunded for a long, long time and we’ve got to get back on the right track,” she said. “Is this the right way to do it? I don’t know that it’s necessarily the right answer.”

Buchanan, who is also the president of the Cheatham County Education Association, is one of the teachers on the family plan and will see her insurance cost increase by about $500 per month, she said.

“It means tightening up every month. It means when the principal calls and wants you to work extra ball games … you have to ask the question am I going to do that, or am I going to work a second job?” she said.

The maximum amount that family plans will go up by is almost $500, Watson said.

While it’s likely the insurance structure will remain the same, the rest of the budget, which has a deficit of more than $207,000, is pending approval from the county commission.

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