Law’s expiration may renew battle over benefits
PLEASANTVILLE, N.J. (AP) — A state law requiring public employees to pay a percentage of their health benefit premiums expired last year, setting the stage for a battle over benefits between school boards and teachers unions.
At issue is whether school boards will be able to maintain those payments during contract negotiations or whether the unions will have the clout to roll them back, The Press of Atlantic City reported (http://bit.ly/1VzcpFT).
At stake are millions of dollars that ultimately would be passed on to local taxpayers. Statewide, school districts budgeted almost $4 billion for all employee benefits for the 2015-16 school year.
That represents almost 18 percent of all state aid and local taxes spent on education.
Steve Baker, director of communications for the New Jersey Education Association, wrote in an email that they expect many local unions will make the payment an important part of their negotiations.
“Different locals will pursue different strategies, but I think you should expect to see that issue raised in nearly all negotiations once the sunset is reached,” Baker said.
The New Jersey School Boards Association is advising members to expect that request. In a November memo, NJSBA manager of labor relations Patrick Duncan noted that in the last year prior to the law, only 13 percent of contracts analyzed by the NJSBA required any employee contribution.