Investigative Post: Health insurance for retired Buffalo public school employees a financial "cliff"

May 18, 2018

Most retired employees of the Buffalo school district enjoy a benefit not enjoyed by their counterparts in suburban school districts: lifetime health insurance.

The bill for this budget year is projected to be $66 million. That’s more than the $64 million the district is spending on health insurance for active employees.

For Nathaniel Kuzma, the district’s general counsel, these costs must be addressed.

“This is something that has become a priority in any negotiation that we engage in,” Zuzma said. “Otherwise, we’re going to see as part of our budget bigger and bigger chunks being taken out not going into the classroom because we have these contractual obligations to provide benefits to our employees.”

Recent changes to the contract on health insurance for retired teachers and administrators saved an estimated $9 million for this budget year. Retired teachers and administrators pay into the plan, but their contributions cover a small share of the cost.

Despite the savings, costs are projected to grow, rising to nearly $70 million in the coming budget year to $80 million in 2022.

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