MANCHESTER, N.H. – Are elected school board members employees of the school districts they run? Maybe not, but their classification is drawing concern about healthcare costs in Manchester.
On Tuesday, the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) Policy Committee took up the issue of health insurance coverage for its members, which was last discussed in 2018.
The issue was brought forward by Ward 11 BOSC Member Dr. Nicole Leapley. Before being elected, Leapley was covered through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, only to find herself becoming ineligible for that plan after receiving healthcare coverage through the Manchester School District as an employee. Ward 8 BOSC Member Peter Perich reported similar issues with his Medicare coverage.
Leapley said her situation stemmed from a loophole in the Affordable Care Act that only looks at affordability for individuals rather than entire households, costing several thousand dollars each year.
Ward 4 BOSC Member Leslie Want questioned whether BOSC members actually were employees of the school district since technically under the city charter, employees of the Manchester School District such as teachers are prohibited from serving as BOSC members.
At-Large BOSC member Jim O’Connell also asked if it would be more appropriate if BOSC members were seen as independent contractors or “1099 workers,” referencing the IRS form given to freelance workers. Manchester School District Chief Financial Officer Karen DeFrancis said that would likely not be accurate since members of the BOSC do not meet many criteria of 1099 workers such as ownership of tools used for jobs and the ability to choose jobs from multiple clients. However, DeFrancis said that given the situation, the current classification of the BOSC members may not fit the specific definition of an employee, either.
The committee referred the matter to Manchester School District administration for a proposed alternative in January. On January 1, the share of healthcare costs paid for by BOSC members in their specific plans goes from 35 percent to 40 percent of overall costs.
If a decision is made following the administrative recommendations, it would take effect for future boards due to a prohibition on currently seated members voting on their own benefits.
O’Connell noted that a decision in December by the “lame duck” board could theoretically vote on benefits that would then go into effect for newly-elected members as they are sworn in for new terms in January, but he agreed with Student Representative Kellen Barbee that doing so would be ethically dubious.