Lifetime health insurance is about to become a thing of the past for administrators in the Buffalo Public Schools.
Administrators hired after July 2023 will not be eligible for health insurance paid for by the district after they retire, under the terms of a new contract approved this week by the School Board.
“It is significant. It’s something the district had pursued for at least the last two collective bargaining agreements,” said Robert Boreanaz, the attorney for the Buffalo Council of Supervisors and Administrators.
Over the years, Boreanaz said, Buffalo had become one of the few districts in New York State still providing retirees with health insurance.
Administrators hired prior to July 2023 will remain eligible for retiree health insurance.
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Those hired after July 2023 will have the option of selling back to the district up to 120 unused sick days to be used toward the cost of their health insurance premiums after they retire.
Teachers in Buffalo still receive retiree health insurance. The Buffalo Teachers Federation is currently in negotiations with the district for a new contract. Union President Phil Rumore said the district is hoping to negotiate an end to retiree health insurance for teachers.
“Every union has the right to do what they think is best for their members,” Rumore said. “But I believe it’s against everything that unions stand for, to sacrifice newer members for existing members.”
The administrators union represents about 200 principals, assistant principals and Central Office administrators.
"This contract benefits both parties by eliminating the discrepancy in pay between elementary and high school principals, makes changes to health care benefits, in addition to raises and a signing bonus," said School Board President Lou Petrucci.
Until now, elementary principals had been paid less than high school principals.
“Many years ago, the elementary schools were much smaller than the high schools, and had less students. That’s not the case anymore,” Boreanaz said.
The contract brings nominal increases in the amount that administrators have to contribute toward their health insurance premiums. Veteran administrators will now pay 10% of their premium, and new administrators will pay 16%.
The contract also brings pay increases.
This summer, administrators will receive a 10% raise, plus step increases. Then, for each of the following three years, they will receive a 3% raise, plus step increases.
Boreanaz pointed out that the administrators union’s previous contract, which was reached in 2017, expired nearly two years ago.
Administrators also will each receive a one-time bonus equal to 7% of their annual salary as a result of ratifying the new contract.
The administrators union met with district officials 13 times over 16 months to hash out the terms of the new contract, he said. The majority of the progress toward reaching the contract was achieved under the past few months under Superintendent Tonja Williams, Boreanaz said.
“Unequivocally, the principals and administrators of the Buffalo School District are really looking forward to a new chapter and working with and supporting the new superintendent,” he said.
Now that the administrators contract has been settled, Petrucci said, the board can focus on settling the teachers contract.
"Contracts are about more than just dollars; new contracts help the district to address changes in working conditions and benefits," he said.