Special meeting sheds light on VEBA benefits for SR employees

Karen Reynolds
Contributing Writer

The South Ripley School Corporation School Board met January 18 for a special called meeting.

Steve Comer, president of the South Ripley Classroom Teachers Association, was present and expressed his concerns regarding payment of Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association (VEBA) benefit payments to those employees who hold administrative addendums.

Comer stated that it was not prudent to make these kinds of payments when finances are tight. He also said that although administrators are entitled to the benefit beginning in 2011, they should not be paid back to 2008 when the VEBA account was originally established. He questioned the eligibility of two employees that hold administrative addendums who are not certified teachers. He made reference to many documents including the administrative addendum, teachers’ contract, the Memorandum of Understanding and the VEBA plan documents.

School attorney Merritt Alcorn stated that it was not a policy change for administrative staff. He stated that the past practice and intent of the school corporation regarding employees with an administrative addendum has always been to provide the same benefits as the bargaining unit. According to Alcorn, payment of these VEBA monies was a correction of a mistake made in 2008 due to a misunderstanding regarding VEBA eligibility when the benefits were first established.

Alcorn further stated the misunderstanding is the only reason the employees with administrative addendums were not included from the beginning. The benefit should have been established and now the correction is being made back to 2008, when the omission occurred.

Superintendent Dr. John Mehrle stated that the issue had been made fully transparent to the board, school attorney, and contract negotiator. He went on to say the administrative addendums have been distributed, discussed and reviewed with the full board, the contract negotiator, and the school attorney several times. The error came to light only recently during the process of changing the teachers insurance to a new vendor.

Unanimous approval was given to accept the Security Benefit as the VEBA provider for the certified teachers effective January 31, 2011. Unanimous approval was also given for the Variable Annuities Life Insurance Company (VALIC) to be the VEBA provider for the administrators and those employees with administrative addendums. Further, Dr. Mehrle recommended and received unanimous approval from the board to provide the VEBA benefits that were provided to employees but not paid as far back as 2008.

In other business, unanimous approval was given to allow transportation supervisor Dan Goris to purchase two new 78-passenger Thomas buses that were legally bid by a cooperative agent at a cost of $83,312.00 each. One used 2010 66-passenger bus with 13,213 miles on it was approved for purchase at a cost of $69,650.00. Goris explained his plans for rotating buses and the cost of the new digital radios and cameras that will be installed once the buses are received. Board member Becky Turner questioned Goris about the warranty on the buses, which he will confirm.