Conrad School District weighing options

By Adam Jerome, I-O Reporter

Last Tuesday the Conrad School Board met for their regularly scheduled meeting.

Among the many topics being discussed, the increase in health insurance rates and the school districts options were of utmost importance.

Superintendent Lynn Utterback commented, “Statewide, schools are seeing insurance rate increases between 20-60 percent.  In Conrad, we are looking at a 28-30 percent increase.”

Montana Unified School Trust (MUST) has been the district’s carrier for the last two years.  With the increases they are now weighing their options.

The district has looked at other insurance carriers along with MUST, including Allegiance, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and NU West.

One sticking point with possibly leaving MUST is the fact that the trust may be able to assess a leaving fee to deal a shortfall in their reserves.

All Montana schools leaving MUST may be on the hook for their share of the shortfall, which may number upwards of 30 schools.

One option that may help the district compensate for the increases involves retirees who are still on the school plan.

Insurance rates for the district are partially based on the average age of the insured group, roughly one third.

Many school district retirees who pay for their own insurance are bundled on the school program.

With recent increases these retirees may be able to find the same or better coverage for less cost on their own.

It is important to note that retirees will have the option to stay on the school’s plan if they prefer.

Utterback adds, “This could be a win win situation.  Our retirees and the district could possibly save some money.”

While health insurance rates are bound to go up, one positive note will be a decrease in other insurance areas.

For example, property liability insurance and Workman’s Compensation will see a slight decrease in overall costs.

In other news the Conrad School District, unlike many other districts in the area are seeing an increase in overall school population.

The outgoing senior class has 40 students.  After the kindergarten screening a few weeks ago it looks like we may see as many as 50 new kindergartners enter the Conrad schools.

This along with other general student increases could translate to between a 10-15 student increase in school population, which is always a positive.

The School Board also elected their officials for the new term.  Chairperson Jan Carter was voted to the same position on a 5-0 vote as was vice-chairperson Jill Johnson also on a 5-0 vote.