COAL CITY — A slight dip in health care premiums will mean savings for Coal City Community Unit School Dist. 1, and, ultimately, taxpayers.
During the board's meeting last Monday, Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg shared with the board that the district has seen a 3-percent decrease in insurance premiums for the upcoming year.
Board member Mary Gill said the news was positive.
"It's amazing to decrease (premiums) in this day and age," she said.
In an interview after the meeting, Bugg said in recent years, the district has seen increases of about 13 percent and 9 percent. In dollar figures, he said those percentages can make a big difference.
"For us, a 10-percent increase is about $200,000," he said. "This program has, over a two-year period of time, has probably saved us close to $400,000 in terms of our health care coverage."
Bugg credits the decrease in premiums with the implementation of a district-wide wellness committee.
"We put together a wellness committee made up of staff members throughout the district," he said, with Giana Trotter, a physical education and health teacher at Coal City High School leading the committee.
"We've had it in place for a couple years now, and they've really done a lot of things to be more preventative in catching things before they start," Bugg said. "We really think it's made a big difference for us."
Bugg said the district has partnered with Riverside Medical Center in Coal City to provide free health screenings and guest speakers for topics ranging from healthy eating to heart disease, diabetes and stress management.
In addition to the partnership, he said district staffers have also taken part in a family wellness night, held healthy potlucks and a community 5k race.
"The committee has really done a lot of great things, and I think it's made people aware (of health issues)," Bugg said.
Trotter said she's excited to see the results of the program, both anecdotal and in the cost decrease.
"I think 3 percent in this short of time is a good number so far," she said. "I'm very happy to see that — it's just wonderful."
Trotter echoed what Bugg said in terms of the program's intent to ward off health problems.
"The more you do up front for prevention, the better off we will all be in the long run," she said.
As the program continues into its third year, Bugg said officials are hoping that the prevention-based initiative continues to produce savings.
"We're hoping to keep up the momentum," he said.