By Cole Parkinson
After being shell shocked by the increase in insurance for 2020, the Horizon School Board is hoping to find a better deal moving forward.
During the board’s regular meeting on Dec. 16, a motion was made to terminate participation in the Alberta School Boards Insurance Exchange effective Oct. 31, 2020.
“As you are all aware, this year we were surprised by about a 297 per cent increase in our insurance premiums. The last 10 years or so, Horizon has been part of the Alberta School Boards Insurance Exchange. What that is, is a reciprocal insurance agreement where essentially a group of school boards came together and self-insured to a point. That point was up to $4.5 million and beyond that point, we bought insurance through various insurance companies. In the middle of the summer, the insurance companies that were involved decided to pull their business or their policies out from the insurance exchange. There had been some large losses last year due to wildfires and some historical losses from floods. There has also been a general hardening on the insurance market. In order to secure insurance, the reciprocal had a number of layers with insurance companies and the end result was the exchange was required to have a $15 million reciprocal instead of $4.5 million. That is the primary driver for the increase,” said Phil Johansen, associate superintendent of finance and operations.
With a massive bump in what Horizon pays for insurance, the ability to explore further opportunities was a fairly obvious choice especially since they could get back into their previous plan if no better options presented themselves.
“For example, last year our insurance premiums were around $300,000. This year they are around $900,000. The contract specifies that we have to give notice by January 1, if we want to get out of this arrangement and we are in it until the end of the insurance period, which is the end of October. We have been advised that if we move to get out of the insurance exchange, we would be welcomed back in as long as we get back in by June, if we decide to do that,” continued Johansen. “Being out of the exchange at this point, what it does is it gives us time to shop around and find a better arrangement, if possible. If we can’t find something better, we can get back in.”
Due to Horizon paying into the insurance exchange, the board had questions on if any money would be coming back.
“That pool of money that we have put in, if we pull out what happens to that pool of money?” asked Bruce Francis, vice-chair.
“There is two pools of money — the reciprocal portion and then there is our equity in the insurance exchange. Eventually, you get your money back, what didn’t get claimed but because they are ensuring us that if there is any outstanding claims, they hold on to it to make sure there are no outstanding claims,” answered Johansen. “They didn’t give us an answer on the timeline.”
Other boards are also dealing with similar issues.
“There are about 50 jurisdictions that contribute to build that pot of money,” added Wilco Tymensen, superintendent of schools.
The board had questions about how much each division contributes to the Alberta School Boards Insurance Exchange.
Johansen explained the contribution was based on the size of each division.
“We have to give them enrollment numbers every year.”
The motion was carried unanimously by the board.