Yarmouth schools budget $45K for former administrators

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YARMOUTH — Retired school administrators will be reimbursed for their federal Medicare Part B insurance premiums after a June 14 School Committee vote.

The 6-0 vote, with School Committee member Margaret Groban not in attendance, clarifies terms of retirement packages for seven past administrators, including former Superintendents Frank Harrison and Ken Murphy.

School Committee Chairman David Ray and Superintendent Judy Paolucci said the revision better defines what insurance benefits the district will repay for former administrators, because prior contract language did not specifically mention Medicare Part B.

“It is a difficult economic time for the discussion of these types of benefits,” Paolucci said, adding she and the central office administrative staff she has hired since her appointment in 2009 do not have the retirement benefits in their contracts.

Ray said School Committee members have been working for about a year to get conforming language on retirement provisions – “none of which was the model of clarity,” he said.

Beginning with Harrison, who retired in 1991, the district has provided insurance premium reimbursements to administrators with at least 10 years of service. All but Murphy are offered repayment for single plans; Murphy’s provision allows for repayment for two plans, capped at $21,000 annually.

Herb Hopkins, School Department director of business services, said $45,000 is budgeted this year to reimburse the retired administrators for their shares in a Maine Education Association-sponsored health insurance plan, with the Medicare portion requiring a premium payment and a MEA-sponsored companion plan for those 65 or older.

The state pays 45 percent of the individual cost for MEA health plans prior to Medicare eligibility and the same proportion of a Medicare companion plan.

In Yarmouth, reimbursements are capped at 150 percent of the original cost of insurance premiums paid by former administrators, and reimbursements are made for life.

District documents show Harrison, Murphy, former Business Director Carol Kinney, former instructional support Director Jane Golding, former elementary school Principals Larry Frazier and Peter Cheney, and former Yarmouth High School Assistant Principal Margaret Anderson are repaid for health insurance premiums.

Hopkins said Harrison, Cheney and Kinney are now Medicare recipients.

Paolucci estimated the district could spend more than $50,000 annually in about five years as two more administrators become eligible for retirement.

Ray said the current contract with school administrators contains the reimbursement provisions, but noted the contract expires in two years.

In comparison to neighboring districts in Falmouth, Freeport, and Cumberland-North Yarmouth, the benefits provided to retired administrators in Yarmouth are generous.

Dan O’Shea, Falmouth director of finance and operations, said his department spends about $2,000 annually to reimburse one former administrator for 50 percent of her insurance premium for the MEA plan. She will also be repaid for half the cost of her companion MEA plan when she is eligible for Medicare, O’Shea said.

School Administrative District 51 Superintendent Robert Hasson said the district does not repay retired and former administrators for any health insurance premiums.

Regional School Unit 5 Superintendent Shannon Welsh said former administrators are not offered reimbursement for health plans.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.