Erie School District Facing Healthcare Cost Hikes Amid Budget D - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather and Events

Erie School District Facing Healthcare Cost Hikes Amid Budget Deficit

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The Erie School District is dealing with a budget deficit that now stands at $4 million dollars, but the Affordable Care Act might add another million in annual costs starting in the next school year. 

The Erie School Board met on Wednesday night at East High School to discuss their options. 

 "We've already made all the easy cuts. Now it's a matter of every penny matters. So we're really having to struggle through this process to try and find four more million dollars to cut," said Jay Badams, Erie Schools Superintendent. 

And with the Affordable Care Act set to take effect in 2016, the district will be required to insure employees who are part time now, but work more than thirty hours per week. Many who fall into that group are substitute teachers. 

Costs estimate at $882,260 annually, to insure 62 employees. 

"It's a lot of money, and the estimate is just that - an estimate. So it could be a little less, it could be significantly more as well," Badams said. 

One thing the district cannot do is reduce employee hours for those who are already working more than 30 hours per week. The Affordable Care Act specifies this to deter employees from reducing work in order to avoid supplying insurance.

"It's big, and it's such a big national issue. The ramifications are ever changing and we have to keep on it and continue evaluating," said John Harkins, president of the Erie School Board. 

One option the board is considering is to outsource the hiring of substitute teachers to a third-party company. Kelly Education Staffing presented their company's services to the board at Tuesday's meeting. 

Kelly Education, a Fortune 500 company, has the resources to provide healthcare coverage for those who qualify. They would also recruit substitute teachers currently serving the Erie School district. 

"This is our attempt to both honor the law, but also manage our finances wisely," Badams said. 

Finding the resources to absorb the additional costs of providing health insurance is still on the table.

"It's possible, sure," Harkins said. "There'll be a hesitancy on the board's part to make a dramatic shift, but we have to look at all the options available to us." 

"We could, but it would be at the expense of some other program. To afford that and fund that, we'll have to cut something else," Badams said. 

The board's budget deadline is in June. 

The school district's deficit was $9.8 million at the beginning of this school year, and $26 million in the 2011-12 school year.

 

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