The Hays USD 489 school board could decide its newest member and the provider of the district’s health insurance before its next regularly scheduled meeting in September.

School board members and district staff discussed Monday night scheduling a special meeting to meet with the four people interested in filling the seat that opened when Sarah Rankin resigned to move with her family to Colorado.

The meeting will be scheduled once a date is determined that all board members and the four are able to attend. The four who have expressed interest in filling the remainder of Rankin’s term are Greg Schwartz, Tina Zimmerman, Lori Hertel and Kevin Daniels.

The board agreed upon 15-minute time slots, allowing for each to speak for five minutes on why they are interested in the position and up to 10 minutes for questions and answers from the board. The person chosen could take the position that night.

The board decided that during the special meeting, they also will further discuss options regarding health insurance.

Superintendent John Thissen gave an update Monday night on the district’s health insurance situation. The board has two years left on its contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas through a state plan, but that plan’s costs are increasing, he said.

“The idea of spending $600,000 more on health insurance last year, $400,000 more this year, $400,000 more next year is something that kind of pushes us to say we really do need to do something,” he said.

“We’re at that point of trying to make a decision. Anybody that asks me, I would end up saying I think it’s inevitable we either need to change this year or next year.”

The district offered a series of informational meetings for employees through the summer and then conducted a survey with insurance broker Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Sixty-five percent of the 177 who responded to that survey agreed a change is needed.

Breaking the contract with BCBS of Kansas would result in a penalty. Thissen said the exact level of the penalty is not known, but likely would be less than the expected increases from the state plan.

“The examples from other schools, districts that have done this … indicate it could be anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000. But the increase is $400,000 through the state,” he said.

He suggested to the board that if members want to change insurance providers this year, they should do so by the Sept. 11 meeting to allow administration and staff enough time to work with the changes.