End of lawsuit by C-R retired teachers


By Jim Poole

A four-year court battle between Cobleskill-Richmondville retirees and the school district ended recently.
The state Court of Appeals refused to hear the district's appeal of a lawsuit brought by retired teachers and administrators over health insurance payments.
The refusal to hear the appeal signals the end of the lawsuit
It also means retirees will pay less than charged currently or nothing at all, as stipulated in earlier C-R contracts.
The school district in 2010 negotiated new contracts with active teachers and administrators that had both pay about 16 percent of health insurance costs.
District officials believed the new contracts also applied to retirees and began charging them.
In dollars, an individual plan would cost about $80 per month and a family plan $250, according to Superintendent Lynn Macan.
Retirees, however, felt the district was bound by an earlier contract in place when the teachers and administrators retired.
The retirees sued, and a lower court ruled 5-0 in their favor last year.
"If it was not 5-0, there would be an automatic right to appeal," said C-R attorney Mike West. "But with a 5-0 decision, the Court of Appeals must agree to an appeal. They didn't."
C-R sought the change in payments in 2010 because insurance costs were rising sharply.
"These health cost increases, coupled with reductions in state aid, are threatening educational programming throughout the state," school board President Bruce Tryon said in a statement.
C-R also argued that retirees had no contractual lifetime right to free health insurance.
But the court ruled otherwise, holding C-R to the terms of the original contract.
"As a retired teacher, I'm happy with the results," said Jean Stennett. "The court showed that a contract has to be followed."
Now C-R must refund about $200,000 retirees paid over four years. The paperwork for that process has begun, Dr. Macan said.
Going forward, C-R will pay about $60,000 per year for the retirees' insurance costs.
Retirees on an individual plan will pay nothing; those on a family plan will pay about 15 percent.