Evart schools to receive best practice incentive
MOISD – Area school districts are on their way to adopting “best practices” as a way to earn an additional $100 per pupil reimbursement in state funding.
Chippewa Hills School District and Evart Public Schools both unanimously passed a resolution at their Monday Board of Education meetings stating their districts have met “best practice” requirements.
In order to receive the extra funding, districts must meet four-out-of-five state-defined best practice requirements. Once the Michigan Department of Education rules a district has met the requirements, the schools should start receiving the extra funding with their next state aid check.
The stipulations are:
• Creating a dashboard, or online report card, with indicators of a district’s financial and academic records;
• Employees pay for at least 10 percent of their health insurance costs;
• Making the district the policy holder on medical benefits;
• Consolidating services with other districts; and
• Seeking bids on non-instructional services.
Chippewa Hills School District will meet all five requirements, qualifying the district for about $220,000 in additional state funding.
“It was a valuable process. We were already doing most of it,” Sandy Weir, finance director.
The district bid out its custodial services in 2009, which the state ruled qualified for the current incentive. There was not enough savings at that time to justify privatizing the services, Weir said, but the district plans to re-bid this year and see if there are any changes.
“Our employees were absolutely cooperative,” said superintendent Shirley Howard. “My support staff and teachers were already paying at least 10 percent (of their insurance costs). ... The people only taking dental and vision insurance (weren’t paying 10 percent). They sent me a letter of resolution and voted unanimously to start paying.”
Under state legislation passed in September, Michigan public employers can pay no more than 80 percent or $15,000 of their employees’ health insurance, starting at the next contract renewal.
Although Chippewa Hills will become one of 75 districts statewide that have submitted preliminary resolutions so far to meet the requirements, Howard is not pleased with the “best practice” incentive concept.
“It will certainly help us not have to dip into our fund equity,” she said. “But with the cuts (the state) made to schools this year ... they should have given us the $100 (per student) and not made us jump through hoops.”
At Monday’s board meeting, Chippewa Hills School District became the policy holder for its employees’ insurance plans.
Most Michigan public school employees have MESSA insurance, which previously did not allow districts to be the policy holder for their employees.
MESSA made a special provision to comply with the best practice incentives, but the Michigan Department of Education has not yet ruled if it will honor the agreement.
“Even if the state doesn’t approve it, we still have four out of five incentives,” Weir said. “We qualify either way.”
Evart also became the insurance policy holder for its employees on Monday.
Superintendent Howard Hyde originally did not the think the district would be able to quality for the incentives when the requirements first came out. After taking bids on transportation, Evart will meet all the requirements except having employees pay 10 percent of their insurance costs.
“It took a lot of time to do the bid,” Hyde said. “Our bus drivers were wonderful. They sat down and negotiated a contract. We decided to reject the bid, but we did our due diligence.”
Evart will save about $9,800 from the best practice incentives.
“I’m thankful it’s going to get us an extra $100 per student,” Hyde said. “Do I agree with what we had to do to get it? Not necessarily.”
Reed City Area Public School is set to pass the same resolution at its next board meeting on Oct. 17.
Similar to Chippewa Hills, the district had already met some of the requirements before the incentive was offered, said superintendent Steve Westhoff.
“We’ve already been moving in that direction and doing a lot of things that people say you should do to save money,” he said.
Reed City plans to meet all the requirements, pending the board’s decision at the meeting to make the district the insurance policy holder.
The district privatized food service, custodial service and maintenance. Employees pay at least 10 percent of their insurance costs.
“I’m always glad to receive an additional $100 per students,” Westhoff said. “The thing that’s very disappointing is this is one-time money. We’ll already have these systems in place, but we won’t have money behind the students.”