County schools’ health care costs on the rise

EDUCATION BEAT

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Buford Middle School students performed at the school’s International Night last week. Photo: Tim Shea Buford Middle School students performed at the school’s International Night last week. Photo: Tim Shea

Our Education Beat coverage appears thanks to a partnership with Charlottesville Tomorrow.

As a result of the University of Virginia’s recent decision to stop providing health insurance to the spouses of employees who are eligible to receive coverage through their own employers, officials say Albemarle County’s school division is facing higher health care costs. The increase is piling up higher, and occurring faster, than the division had initially thought.

Since January 1—when UVA’s decision took effect—Albemarle has absorbed 42 new enrollees, more than $200,000 in expenses for this year, and nearly $350,000 in new costs for next year. According to Jackson Zimmerman, the division’s finance director, many of the enrollees are long-standing employees who never previously received insurance from the division. The division budgeted nearly $12.4 million for health care this year, and $13.4 next year due to increased rates.

More than 10 percent of those in the schools’ insurance pool are part-time employees, and the division hoped many of them would seek insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but that hasn’t happened, said Lorna Gerome, Albemarle’s Human Resources Director. Because the new expenditures are coming so late in the fiscal year, Zimmerman said, the division is considering using health care reserves to fund the new costs for either this year or next year.

City Council offers to increase school funding

The City of Charlottesville and Charlottesville School Board are inching closer to solving the school division’s budget shortfall. During a business luncheon last week, Mayor Satyendra Huja proposed that the schools and city split the remaining $262,463 budget gap. If adopted by Council, the move would leave the school board with a $131,231 shortfall.

Due to new revenue projected from the state, City Manager Maurice Jones said, local government could give the schools half of what the division is requesting and still produce a balanced local government budget. But City Councilor Kristin Szakos proposed that the city put up the additional $131,231 to meet the school division’s full request.

City Councilor Dede Smith said she was hesitant to fully close the gap when city staff are receiving smaller raises than school teachers. The school budget suggests a 1.5 percent pay jump for teachers, in addition to the incremental step up in pay they receive for each year of service. That equals about 3 percent for most teachers, said Ed Gillaspie, the school division’s finance director. Jones’ budget includes a 2 percent raise for city staff.

School board member Jennifer McKeever said the board will determine final adjustments to the division’s budget once the City Council finalizes a revenue figure. The Council hopes to adopt a final budget on April 11.

Matthew Caduff

MEET YOUR EDUCATOR

Matt Caduff, 2nd Grade Teacher, Stony Point Elementary School

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

High stakes assessments are an abysmal way to nurture or spark creativity in young learners. It is difficult to see students, parents, teachers, and administrators be judged by such an idiotic system of accountability.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

A lot of people think teaching is about curriculum. It’s really about empowering students to think independently.

What outside experience prepared you best to become a teacher?

Working as an instructional coach was an eye-opening experience for me. The best part of that job was mentoring novice teachers. They taught me way more than I taught them.

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