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Wellness Program gets nod from school board
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USD 428 school board members okayed a new wellness program at a Wednesday morning meeting July 18.  The program was introduced at the regular monthly meeting July 12.  It will be open to both current and retired employees.  By taking part in the program, participants receive a maximum of $50 per-month reduction in the monthly premium for their health insurance.  
“Health costs are not going to drop anytime soon, and we all want to be healthier,” Assistant Superintendent Dan Brungardt said of the option. “Some may be diagnosed with pre-diabetes, and may be able to get a handle on it now, which will make them healthier and save our plan money down the road.”
At the beginning of the school year, the employee will have a blood draw, then again later in the year.  There will also be health classes available, and goal setting will be available.
Classes will be teleconference calls, 30-minutes each.  The mandatory piece is participation, and employees that choose not to follow up the blood draw by taking part in the other parts of the program will not be eligible for the premium reduction, Brungardt said.
Board members differed on how they felt about the program at the July 12 meeting.  Dwight Young felt some employees might feel hassled by being required to fully participate, but Cheryl Rugan disagreed.
“We need to be a good example to our kids and model a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
Each employee participating will cost the district an initial $190 to cover the cost of both blood draws and initial recommendations.  Board member Wade Babcock, a Physicians Assistant, felt the cost was a bargain for the district.
“Even one blood draw costs more than $190,” he said.
The district currently has 355 employees and 25 retirees that would be eligible to participate.  There are only 93 employees participating in the current wellness program.  The program will cost $19,500 for every 100 employees participating.  If all opted in, it will cost the district $74,100 for the year.  The initial blood work for each employee will cost the district $43,333.  

Reinsurance cost to rise

According to Brungardt, the district is self-insured and premiums paid into the plan go directly to pay medical bills up to a certain amount. Some of the premium is also used to purchase reinsurance to cover bills that go above that amount for employees with more serious conditions.  
“Even though we had a really good year, we had several claims that went over $65,000,” Brungardt reported at the July 12 meeting. “So, now the district will cover the cost of claims up to $75,000, at which point reinsurance will kick in.”
The insurance committee took bids from three different companies and recommended HighMark for the district contract.
“HighMark was not the lowest bid, but it has the lowest rate for individual lasers  and the least amount of employees they want to laser,” said Brungardt in an email. “This protects the district’s self- insurance fund”
The board approved HighMark’s bid, which will increase employees monthly premiums by $20 for a single, and $40 for couples or families.  The district currently pays 95 percent of the premium for individuals, and 50 percent of the premium for couples and families.

Budget Review
Taxpayers in USD 428 will see a slight reduction in the mill levy from the district this year.  With State aid in the amount of $3,838 per full time equivalent (FTE), also up from last year, the mill levy will be 44.936, down from last year’s 45.029.  Students grades 1-12 are considered 1 FTE.  Kindergarteners are considered one half FTE.
Brungardt said the district will receive $260,000 to the General Fund from the State, and the supplemental general fund will also be up slightly, giving the district a budget of $25,070,562 to work with during the 2012-2013 fiscal year.  
The board approved publishing of the budget as presented, which will be printed in the Great Bend Tribune and available at the district office for ten days following.  A budget hearing is set for just prior to the August BOE meeting on August 13 at 7 p.m. at the district office.  

Other business:
Instead of carpeted mats that can slip and bunch at the entrances of Great Bend Middle School, the board approved a change request to install dense inset-carpet at entryways.  Brungardt said the change will not only allow people to scrape their feet and catch dirt before they reach the regular carpeting, it will also reduce the danger of slip and fall accidents at the facility.  
Superintendent Dr. Tom Vernon reported the district is searching for a middle school special education instructor to replace Rebecca Kolden, who resigned last month.