Colorado Springs D-11 budget includes civil unions benefits

June 19, 2013 Updated: June 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm

A $343 million budget for the next school year, which includes bonuses and raises for employees and insurance coverage for civil union partners of Colorado Springs School District 11 employees, gained approval from D-11's board of education Wednesday.

The budget contains a $9.3 million wages and benefits package for 3,800 employees and is an increase from last year's $341 million budget.

During the last seven years, D-11 has cut $37 million from its budget due to decreased state funding and fewer students, said Glenn Gustafson, deputy superintendent and chief financial officer. But an improving economy and a district reorganization plan have modestly loosened spending for the 2013-2014 budget.

Health insurance for same-sex couples is a new budget addition and an issue the board has not considered in the past. But Colorado's legalization of civil unions, which took effect May 1, allows partners in a civil union to claim each other as a dependent in life, health and other insurance policies that provide coverage relating to joint ownership of property.

Employers must provide medical coverage to same-sex unionized couples by Jan. 1, 2014.

The board's approval means D-11 will add same-sex partners to its health plan beginning Sept. 1.

"We've had a handful of requests from employees, knowing this was coming," said Jessica Reijgers, D-11's manager of employee benefits.

The district estimates a 1 to 2 percent increase in its health plan costs to cover same-sex partners, which would equate to $250,000 to $500,000 annually, she said.

"At this time, we don't know what it's going to look like for enrollment," Reijgers said. "We'll have a better idea after open enrollment."

Open enrollment for the district's health plan will begin Monday and run through Aug. 15, she said.

D-11 has a non-discrimination policy that goes hand-in-hand with the new law, Reijgers said. Also included in the rights and protections covered by civil unions are taking leave from work to care for a partner, making medical and end-of-life decisions for a partner and adopting children together.

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