A committee designed to look into health-insurance options for New Albany-Plain Local School District personnel will begin work now that the school board approved its members.

A committee designed to look into health-insurance options for New Albany-Plain Local School District personnel will begin work now that the school board approved its members.

Board members on July 11 appointed Jana Croom, J.R. Pine, Michele Shuster and Paulette Spencer to the committee. The first three live in the school district and Spencer works in New Albany, according to board member Phil Derrow.

The six-member group also includes board Vice President John McClelland and Derrow.

Derrow said he expects the committee to share research with board members within three to six months.

"We don't have a firm end date, because it's task-oriented, not time-oriented," he said.

Health insurance comes up in every contract with the district's unions, the Plain Local Education Association and Ohio Association of Public School Employees, Derrow said.

"It is the largest single controllable expense outside of salaries and wages in the district," he said.

District spokesman Patrick Gallaway said the PLEA and OAPSE contracts would expire June 30, a little less than a year away. Collective bargaining is typically February through April, he said.

Due to collective-bargaining rules, the committee can't recommend specific health plans but would instead identity multiple options, Derrow said. The district is self-insured and offers its staff a preferred-provider organization plan and a health-savings account.

Derrow said the goal is to provide the security employees expect while spending taxpayer money as efficiently as possible to serve students in the best manner possible.

"I don't view this as adversarial in the slightest," he said.

Derrow, who is chairman of the finance committee, said finance-committee members identified insurance as a "very large controllable expense" for the district and recognized opportunities existed to improve the health plan.

When he served on the New Albany Community Foundation's school-funding task force, which presented its data last year, results also showed savings opportunities for health insurance spending "really were pretty substantial," he said.

McClelland said health care has been a topic of conversation within the district since he joined the board in 2013. The goal was to improve budget efficiency while providing a sound plan for employees. The task-force recommendations reinforced the understanding that health care was one of the budget areas that required consistent evaluation, he said.

"This is an opportunity for us to look for effective and efficient use of our resources," he said. "We highly value the individuals who work every day to educate the children of our community, and we want to provide a high quality health-care option for them and do it in a responsible way so that the taxpayers of this district recognize the value that they are receiving."

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah