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Folt Folds on Retiree Health Benefit

What a fumble. Provost Folt has reinstated the death benefit for current retirees and those who retire between now and December 31, 2010. This decision means that the College will save almost no money over the next decade or two, and it has incurred the cost of a public relations fiasco — the result of making decisions by fiat, rather than consulting with various parties and finding a sensible justification for such a cost-cutting move (like the fact that no other local institutions have a similar benefit).

More importantly, the message has been sent out that if aggrieved parties yell loudly enough, then Dartmouth will back down. We can expect more fun and games in the future.

Note: The SEIU just raised their members’ monthly dues by 25%; they are getting ready to push back, too.

Update on retiree death benefit

Dear colleagues:

We are writing to let you know that the College has decided to modify its decision on the retiree death benefit.

Last winter, when we were intensely reviewing all possible options to reduce the budget gap, everything was on the table. We needed to find ways not only to address immediate projected losses, but also to correct the longer-term issue of our expenses continuing to exceed our revenues by $100 million and more annually.

Good work by our colleagues throughout the College has positioned us to close the gap for the current fiscal year (2011). For fiscal 2012 and beyond, we have addressed 80 percent of the shortfall. Work to close the remaining gap continues.

Part of the Strategic Budget Reduction and Investment (SBRI) process has been to examine and adjust Dartmouth’s benefits program. It was the intention that all employees and retirees collectively share in the changes necessary to return Dartmouth to sound financial footing.

Regarding retirees, we made the judgment that eliminating the one-time death benefit, which provides $5,000 to the beneficiaries of a retired employee upon his or her death and costs the College $150,000 to $200,000 annually, was preferable to changes in other areas, particularly health care. Dartmouth subsidizes the Dartmouth College Medicare Supplement (DCMS) health insurance premium for many of our retirees at, or nearly at, 100 percent. Additionally, our research showed that we were the only institution among our peers to offer this type of cash death benefit to retirees.

It has since become clear how important this one-time $5,000 payment is to the planning and decision-making of many retirees and their families. We have reconsidered the decision and will be reinstating this benefit to current retirees and those who retire between now and December 31, 2010. As of January 1, 2011, the $5,000 benefit will end and will not be available to individuals retiring on or after that date.

We are pursuing other means to achieve the necessary annual savings as part of the ongoing budget effort. We will continue to review opportunities for savings across the institution, including the cost of benefits.

As always, we encourage current employees to take advantage of life insurance benefits and to take the option of continuing these after leaving Dartmouth.

We appreciate the sincerity of all those who have been in touch with us regarding this very personal issue.

Best regards,

Carol Folt, provost, and Steven Kadish, executive vice president and chief financial officer


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