Evesham’s BOE and Education Association conflict over state legislation

The board formally opposed state legislation that would limit the healthcare contributions boards of education could require of their employees.

At this week’s Evesham Township Board of Education meeting, the board approved a resolution stating its formal opposition to state legislation that would limit the health-care contributions boards of education could require of their employees.

In turn, members of the Evesham Township Education Association attended the meeting to state their formal opposition to the district’s resolution.

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The debate regards legislation known as Senate Bill 2606, which, among other changes, would see employees of a local board of education pay “no more than 3 percent of their base salary for individual coverage, 4 percent of their base salary for individual and adult or individual and children coverage, and 5 percent of their base salary for family coverage.”

Under current law and the collective bargaining agreement between the Evesham Township Education Association and the ETSD BOE, the board and its employees have varying levels of contribution to health-care costs based on salary and coverage type, with the employees’ contribution being capped at no more than 35 percent of the cost of coverage for any level of coverage for employees who make $110,000 or more.

And although state Senate President Sen. Steve Sweeney said several weeks ago he would not move the bill forward, as he believe it would shift costs to local taxpayers, the ETSD BOE still passed its resolution opposing the bill at this week’s meeting.

The BOE’s resolution describing the state legislation as creating “results adverse to the provision of a thorough and efficient education, including but not limited to the loss of funds that directly benefit the needs of the students.”

According to the district’s resolution, implementation of the state legislation as written would cost the district $1.6 million annually, on top of losses in funding that have already occurred.

Those losses in funding relate to cuts in the amount of state aid the district receives, which are set to reach $9 million in total by the 2024–2025 school year.

Although seven of the board’s nine members voted to approve the BOE’s resolution, two members who opposed the resolution were board president Joe Fisicaro Jr. and board member Melissa Fleming.

Fisicaro, a teacher himself for the Lenape Regional High School District, said that while he understood why it was in the ETSD BOE’s best interest to oppose the state legislation, he said his conscience would not let him support the BOE’s resolution.

“I know people who have lost $750 to $1,000 a month in health-care costs, and I in good conscience cannot support this,” Fisicaro said. “I understand where we’re coming from and I understand where we are and the causes and concerns of this cost, but my conscience will not let me support this.”

Someone who did comment, however, was ETEA president Debbie VanCuren, who said the ETEA found it “disheartening” the BOE would adopt a resolution that went “against the faculty and staff” of the district.

VanCuren argued ETEA members have not seen an increase in their take-home pay in “many years,” as raises go toward an increasing percentage they are required to pay for the costs of benefits.

“Many lawmakers who support the legislation also realize local schools districts can’t foot the bill for the additional cost, and are looking at multiple ways to fund the bill,” VanCuren said.

Aside from Fisicaro, none of the other board members commented directly on the board’s resolution, which passed with a 7–2 vote.

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