MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Wednesday, the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) Policy Committee recommended the elimination of health insurance benefits for BOSC members at the beginning of the next term in 2024 as well as a request to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen increase the stipend for BOSC members from $2,000 to $4,000 per year.
The discussion was needed after the full BOSC send the issue back to committee following confusion over whether BOSC members are employees or not employees for the sake of tax purposes and any related benefits that employees of the Manchester School District may be entitled to receive. Additionally, the benefits were seen as something that may be necessary to entice community members from all walks of life to seek election to the BOSC.
In turn, the discussion at the full BOSC came after concerns from some BOSC members that the health insurance benefits were more costly than insurance plans they could receive on their own and also disqualified the members from certain other plans they could receive on their own.
Manchester School District Legal Counsel Kathryn Cox-Pelletier said that the topic of whether or not BOSC Members are in fact employees should be seen as a separate matter from health insurance given the complexity of the subject. Under Manchester’s City Charter, employees of the school district are ineligible to become BOSC members, but Cox-Pelletier said that for tax purposes, the Internal Revenue Service sees school board members as employees. However, she also noted that the National Labor Relations Board does not classify school board members as employees when it comes to collective bargaining rights.
Cox-Pelletier was clear that it would constitute a conflict of interest under the city’s charter for the BOSC to vote benefits for current BOSC members. However, Ward 11 BOSC Member Dr. Nicole Leapley, who has stated in the past that the district plan has cost her family thousands of dollars and made her ineligible to purchase a preferred ACA plan, asked if it would still be a conflict of interest if BOSC members voted to take away benefits from themselves and give the money from those benefits back to taxpayers. Cox-Pelletier indicated it still likely would be from her reading of the charter, at least in regard to any members currently using the district’s insurance.
Three of the four BOSC members currently enrolled in the district’s health insurance serve on the BOSC Policy Committee, with Leapley joined by Ward 8 BOSC Member Peter Perich and Ward 4 BOSC Member and Policy Committee Chair Leslie Want. Perich also shared a similar story to Leapley, only with the district insurance making him ineligible for Medicare. While Want said she liked the insurance she received from the district, she felt it was appropriate to remove it given ACA options that were not available when the benefits were first provided for BOSC members.
The BOSC Policy Committee consists of five members, which would mean that the recusal of Leapley, Perich and Want would remove the committee’s quorum, making a recommendation vote to the full BOSC impossible.
While any BOSC member can bring a matter forward to a vote of the full BOSC without a committee recommendation, the idea of immediately removing the benefits for BOSC members was eventually dropped.
Members of the Committee, led by At-Large BOSC Member and BOSC Vice-Chair Jim O’Connell, felt that instead of the health insurance benefits, future BOSC members should instead receive a $4,000 per year stipend, an amount currently received by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
O’Connell and others on the committee said that this was a matter of equity between the BOSC and the Aldermen and would also help attract a more diverse board while avoiding the pitfalls that have come with providing health insurance benefits.
Attempts to make motion that would also request a meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s Joint Committee on Education, a Aldermanic committee that includes both Aldermen and BOSC Members, was eventually dropped. This idea was primarily opposed by O’Connell, who felt that it was unnecessary and it purpose could be served by a statement from the BOSC to the Aldermen on the discussed topics.