April 19th, 2011

  • Location: Sayles-Hill Lounge
  • Time: 3:30 pm
  • Present: Kerstin Cardenas (Ex-Officio), Andrea Zunkel (Ex-Officio), Joe Chihade, Pavel Kapinos, Linda Mueller, Sandy Pieri, Austin Robinson-Coolidge, Mike Tompos (Chair)
  • Guests: Andrea Nixon, Director of Curricular and Research Support/Co-Chair, Community Equity and Diversity Initiative (CEDI); Michael McNally, Chair and Professor of Religion/Co-Chair, Community Equity and Diversity Initiative (CEDI)
  • Secretary: Andrea Zunkel, Benefits Coordinator (Ex-Officio)
  • Keywords: Benefits Committee Meeting Minutes, Meeting Minutes for Benefits Committee


Introductions were made.


CEDI Proposal:  Tax Off-Set for Same Sex Domestic Partners

Andrea Nixon and Michael McNally, Co-Chairs from the Community Equity and Diversity Initiative (CEDI) joined our meeting to present a proposal regarding initiating a tax off-set for same sex domestic partners; this proposal derives from information gathered within the Climate Campus Survey.  This proposal has been a work in progress over the past 1.5 years.

Thus far, CEDI has talked with two Presidents (Robert Oden and Steve Poskanzer), as well as the Tuesday Group.  Their intention is not to create a new benefit but to help resolve issues within the current benefit and its impact to same sex domestic partners.  CEDI views this proposed change as a good faith start towards equalization of the benefit, and also to aid in recruitment and retention of staff and faculty at Carleton College.

The original benefit was implemented at Carleton College in the 1990’s; there are tax implications that relate to benefits provided to domestic partners that must comply with IRS regulations.  Specifically for the employee who chooses to elect health coverage for their partner, due to federal law, Carleton employees with domestic partners have both a pre-tax deduction (for themselves) and a post tax deduction for their domestic partners, as well as paying taxes on the portion of the premium that the College pays for their domestic partner (which is considered taxable income).  

Andrea and Michael shared that they have found some universities (Syracuse and Bowdoin) and companies (Google) that have attempted to come up with some “work arounds”, which has been to “gross up” salary to offset the additional taxation paid by the employee.  If Carleton were to implement this, CEDI thinks this would be roughly a $1500 impact for the employee. 

Kerstin pointed out that the amount “grossed up” will also increase their taxable income.  Additionally, it is very difficult to do a “true gross up” due to each employee’s rate of taxation. 

CEDI is recommending a flat increase vs. individual calculations and also recommends that the offset only be offered to same sex domestic partners as a good-faith start.  There are currently four employees affected, which is $6000.

Austin commented that this estimate may change as there may be other employees who would choose to bring their partners on to our plans in future with this change enacted. 

The Benefits Committee expressed their appreciation for the information and Andrea and Michael were informed that we will be meeting soon to provide more review of this proposal.  Our recommendations will then be submitted to the Tuesday Group for their review.  Andrea and Michael offered to supply any further information necessary, should our committee have any follow-up questions.

Benefits Committee Initiatives

The Benefits Committee reviewed our initiatives moving forward.  Specifically reviewed was:

  1. Surveying employees on the College’s benefits package

Comments were that coming up with an appropriate survey that asks the correct questions in the appropriate fashion is very difficult to do.  A survey had been done a number of years ago (through Survey Monkey); however, the information derived was not the best. 

  1. Benefits Package Education.

Mike suggested that providing education on our benefits to our employees may be a great idea, as many people don’t know what benefits they actually have.  Additionally, they may not be recognizing the contributions made for them by the College. 

  1. Benefits Fair.

Discussion ensued about conducting a benefits fair; there was one done in 2008 which provided an opportunity for our vendors to answer questions and inform employees on specifics of their plans.  Additionally offered (in 2008) was a bio-metric screening opportunity, which was not met with employee support and resulted in a number of negative comments. 

  1. Benefits Package Comparison to Peer Institutions.

There may be some merit in educating our population on how Carleton College’s benefits relate to our peer institutions.  It can be very difficult to provide specifics on each benefit (due to plan specifics per institution); however, the comparison of the ratio paid in benefits between institutions may be feasible.

  1. Long-Term Care.

Employees have vocalized their interest in investigating long-term care insurance (which would be a voluntary employee paid benefit).  Should we wish to move forward with this, we’d need to begin working on this now for implementation by January, 2012.  Even though there would not be College contribution, group rates could result in up to a 35% reduction in cost for our employees.

  1. Other Voluntary Employee Benefits (AFLAC, Vision Packages for Eyewear, etc.).

There may be other considerations to be made for voluntary benefits coming through SAC.

Our plans are to review these initiative options in an upcoming May, 2011 meeting.

Benefits Committee:  Preparations for the Budget Committee

The Budget Committee has presented a roster of questions to the Benefits Committee for review in a meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 3:30 p.m. 

Their requests/questions included:

  1. A list of the entire benefit package (retirement, health, tuition, life, longevity bonus, etc.)
  2. Is the College’s cost information available for each one of these benefits individually?
  3. What is the cost of the entire benefit package?
  4. Any insight on upcoming health insurance negotiations? Plans? Cost structure?
  5. Is current data available for comparing Carleton’s retirement contribution to our peer institutions?
  6. Is current data available for comparing our entire benefit package to our peer institutions?
  7. Are there any changes in law or in our own circumstances that might change what we are doing?
  8. Are there options available for structuring health insurance premiums based on health or lifestyle choices?

Following discussion, the committee decided to provide them with a PowerPoint presentation that will provide specifics on request/questions 1-3.  The presentation will include graphs and enrollment data from 2010 and some projections for 2011.  The remaining questions will have the remaining questions (with our responses) included within the PowerPoint presentation.

In closing, Mike shared his thoughts.  He is encouraged that we are being invited to present this information to the Budget Committee, as ultimately, this will benefit the College.