$218,398 … Or More!
On Sunday, Jessica Bock of the Post-Dispatch reported that the superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant school district was awarded health insurance for life as an incentive to get him to stay at the district for an extra year. This is incredibly rare, if not unprecedented. In my study of Missouri superintendent pay, I did not see any other Missouri school district award its superintendent perpetual health insurance.
According to his contract, the superintendent, Jeffery Spiegel, will begin to receive free health coverage for both himself and his dependents after June 30, 2011, until the end of Spiegel’s life. The superintendent and his dependents will not have to pay any premiums for this coverage after June 30.
This is pricey. According to Bock’s article, district officials estimates the cost of the lifelong health insurance to be more than $200,000.
A more typical health insurance benefit for superintendents at larger school districts is to provide health insurance to a superintendent and his or her family while the superintendent works at the district. (The Pleasant Hill superintendent’s contract is a good example).
If the Ferguson-Florrisant school board members were having a difficult time persuading Spiegel to stay at the district, they could have awarded him an increase in salary for that year, or an increased annuity payment — something that other school districts occasionally do. The health insurance that Spiegel was awarded is an unknown expense. It is impossible to know how long he and his dependents will use the benefit. Estimates, such as the $218,398 figure calculated by district officials, are only estimates.
Really, why would the Ferguson-Florissant school board, which oversees the district’s budget, prefer to award a benefit with an unknown cost to one that can easily be budgeted for? If board members thought Spiegel was worth an additional $218,398, the board members could have increased his salary by that amount. That approach would result in Spiegel’s salary increasing to $430,051. Of course, if the school board had taken that approach, the additional compensation would have been awarded in a much more transparent manner.
School districts report their superintendent’s salary each year to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. But districts do not report the non-salary benefits, such as annuity payments, car allowances, or, in this case, health insurance for life. So, Spiegel’s additional compensation cannot be found by looking at state data. Additionally, if an education reporter or interested district resident were to request Spiegel’s employment contract, which is where you can find information about non-salary benefits, they would only see that he was awarded health insurance for life — not the monetary value of that benefit. It took diligent reporting to suss out the $218,398 figure.
It is impossible to tell whether school board members thought that they could obscure the enormous sum of money awarded Spiegel by providing lifelong health insurance to its superintendent and his dependents. But, regardless of the intention, that is the end result. I’m glad the Post-Dispatch caught it.