Bid to defray health insurance fails

Supervisor Mozell Booker’s (Fork Union) motion to take $539,545 from reserve funds to give the schools to defray health insurance costs died without a second.

Keller presented a table of facts that showed health care cost changes from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2013. In order to “close the budget hole” of $700,000 in health insurance, costs were shifted to school employees, Keller said.

In 2012, it cost an employee with a minor child $239 per month for health care. That cost will go up to $460 per month.

The real whammy comes for employees insuring spouses and family. The coverage in 2012 for an employee with a spouse was $481 per month. In 2013, it will more than double to $1,088 per month. Those with family coverage paid $556 but will have to pay $1195 in fiscal year 2013.

“It is so important to me to draw the best (employees) and take care of them,” Keller told the board. “If there is anything that can help my staff with their health insurance, I’d ask your serious consideration as soon as possible.”

It didn’t take the board long to say no.

A mere few minutes of discussion ensued, with Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra) commenting that he didn’t think it was right for part-time employees to be offered a benefits package.

“I’m troubled that part-time employees got the benefits package and troubled we’re laying it on the backs of full-time teachers who are taking care of families,” Ullenbruch said.

Both Keller and Ullenbruch said some part-time employees are working just for the benefits.

Keller presented a slide showing that an instructional assistant who grossed $1,596 would pay $1,196 for healthcare, leaving the employee with $501 before taxes. A bus driver fared worse, with only $11 left after monthly health insurance costs.

Keller said even with the money she was asking from the board, health insurance rates would still go up, just not by as much.

Joe Chesser (Rivanna) asked if there was any wiggle room in the budget. County Administrator Steve Nichols said the contingency fund could not dip below 12 percent of the budget, which left $1 million available.

Don Weaver (Cunningham) said he’s concerned that the fund balance keeps dwindling.

“The real problem is our fund balance was $16 million and it keeps going down,” Weaver said. “And look at our debt. We’re 13th in Virginia in debt (out of 95 counties)….It’s not a revenue problem, it’s a spending problem.”

Board Chairman Shaun Kenney started to move on to the next topic, when Booker told him to hold on.

“I want to make a motion,” she said.

After Booker proposed taking more than $500,000 from the board contingency fund to give to the schools, Kenney asked for a second on the motion.

Chesser said, “Normally I’d second it, but it’s a matter of not having it.”

Hearing no second, Kenney declared the motion dead and went on to the next item on the agenda.

At that, most of the audience who wore yellow stickers indicating support for more school funding got up and walked out.

Keller said the school board has a Request for Proposal out looking for other health insurance options.

Shortly after the board moved on to the next topic, Nichols proposed three options to handle the mandated changes in employee contributions to the Virginia Retirement System. One option Nichols advised against. Of the other two, one would cost the county $79,000 and the other $29,000. Nichols said he recommended the option costing $29,000 simply because couldn’t say where he could find $79,000 in the budget.

“I’m sure I can find it, but right now I can’t tell you where,” he said.

The board voted unanimously to go with the option that cost $79,000.

Bill Sullivan, a member of Focus on Fluvanna’s Future, a group lobbying hard for more school funding was surprised at the board’s decision.

“While we appreciate the board’s concerns over where to find the funding, we believe the Board of Supervisors continues to ignore this elephant in the room (the school staff insurance costs) and continue with business as usual without acknowledging the magnitude of the insurance problem,” Sullivan said. “What was most frustrating was that immediately after ignoring the concerns about burden on the school staff receiving 1.0-1.5% salary reductions (due to 2/3 furlough days) and an average 20% compensation reduction due to increased health care insurance costs (those on the family plan), the board then unanimously voted 5-0 in favor of the highest cost (FY13) option for handling VRS for county employees (excluding school staff).”

Sullivan said it was wrong for the board to ignore the needs of the school employees while making sure the county staff didn’t suffer from the VRS mandate.

“The Board of Supervisors should be ashamed at the hypocrisy shown last night as they unanimously agreed to ensure all county staff (excluding school staff) do not take a 0.28% compensation reduction from the VRS impact without finding funding options, while in the same meeting accepting that the 20% cuts (some staff the cuts equal a 90% reduction) on school staff compensation were just part of the county tightening its belt and funding could not be found.”

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