Cooperative Saves Rural School District $200K+

Education, Employee Benefits


North Crawford School District


How can a rural school district offer a competitive compensation/benefits package and deal effectively with rising insurance costs?

North Crawford School District, located just over an hour south of La Crosse, faces the kinds of challenges that lots of rural Wisconsin school districts face. For example, how do you attract, hire, and retain great talent? It’s not hard to understand why being able to offer a competitive compensation/benefits package is so important. But doing so brings challenges of its own.

North Crawford recently found itself in the middle of an especially high claims period, which resulted in increases to both plan premiums and member deductibles. Although the district tried to lessen the burden of higher deductibles by contributing more to employee HSAs, expenditures on higher premiums and increased HSA contributions left it struggling to issue raises and provide additional benefits for both staff and students.

One possible solution? Joining a cooperative. This approach can be a great way for similar entities to band together and counter rising insurance costs. It can work especially well for rural school districts, who share similar fiscal concerns and carry similar levels of risk. Based on M3’s recommendations, North Crawford School District opted to join CESA #3, an area school cooperative.

In the meantime, M3’s efforts with North Crawford coincided with helping CESA #3 move to a new carrier. Ultimately, the new carrier determined that North Crawford School District would be too high of a risk and denied its request to join the CESA #3 cooperative.

M3 believed there was still a way to make this work.


Negotiating with a cooperative on behalf of the client led to significant savings and a path forward that can help this school district stay strong.

Working on behalf of North Crawford School District, members of M3’s Education & Government Practice were able to negotiate an upfront, first-year surcharge of 15% of the current CESA #3 rates with the new carrier. Even with the surcharge, North Crawford saved $200,000 through a lower plan premium and decreased contributions to the HSAs. On top of that, the new CESA #3 plan’s deductibles have dropped significantly compared with the previous plan. In other words, employees don’t feel any pain from these savings.

But it gets even better. In the upcoming year, the highest increase North Crawford can experience as part of CESA #3 is 6%. Remember, in its first year as a CESA #3 member, the district is paying 15% more on its deductible than every other district in the cooperative. This means, in the worst-case scenario, North Crawford School District will experience a 9% drop in premium next year.

M3’s Education & Government professionals not only thoroughly understand the challenges Wisconsin school districts face – they can help find solutions to help our schools ultimately function more effectively.

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