Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
May 11, 2005
Ms. Darlene Perez
Teachers' Retirement Board
21 Grand Street, 2nd Floor
Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Ms. Perez:
This is to respond to your request for advice of December 15, 2004 which asks if a participating board of education may charge an administrative fee in addition to the insurance premium charged for coverage selected by a retired teacher. This retiree receives a pension from the State Teachers' Retirement System, but is also covered by health insurance through the retiree's last employing board of education. The answer to your question is no, unless the same fee is also imposed on active teachers.
The State Teachers Retirement Act, (Act) Chapter 167a of the General Statutes, provides a comprehensive retirement system to qualified public school teachers. Herzig v. Town of West Hartford Board of Education, 152 Conn. 144, 151, 204 A.2d 827 (1964). Specifically, Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 10-183t governs an important facet of one's pension benefit, health insurance. Therein lies the answer to your question.
A state agency only has such authority as the legislature expressly provides by way of statute. State v. White, 204 Conn. 410, 419, 528 A.2d 811 (1987). An administrative agency "must act within its statutory authority." Page v. Welfare Commissioner, 170 Conn. 258, 262, 365 A.2d 1118 (1976). In order to assess an administrative fee there must be statutory authority to do so. Since the controlling statute expressly limits the health premium to" that charged for the same form of coverage for active teachers," an additional administrative charge would violate this express condition unless it is also imposed to the same extent on active teachers.
In 1988 this office was asked to interpret § 10-183t(b) in the context of whether the Act entitles a retired teacher to subsidized health insurance premiums. Op. Atty. Gen. No. 88-38, attached. We analyzed the statutory language and specifically interpreted the word "premium" found in that section. In so doing, we emphasized the legislative history underlying the amendment which clarified the meaning of the term "premium."
Id. (Emphasis added). Had the legislature intended for a local board to add an administrative charge to the cost beyond what is charged for active teachers it would have done so.
Although COBRA (Consolidated Omni-Bus Reconciliation Act of 1986) does provide for the assessment of an administrative fee, Section 10-183t(b) of the Act does not contain a similar provision. Accordingly, it would be necessary for the General Assembly to amend the Act to expressly provide for the assessment of an administrative fee by a local school board.
I trust this answers your question. Please feel free to contact me if I may of additional assistance.
Very truly yours,
Thomas P. Clifford, III
Assistant Attorney General
cc: William R. Connon, Esquire, (Plainfield Board of Education)