Booneville Schools Superintendent John K. Parrish told the Booneville School Board last week he could see a rumored push for the state to stop handling the insurance portion of teacher benefits.
Parrish said he heard the notion from State Rep. John Eubanks and that the target for that to happen could be as soon as 2015, or in 2017.
"It will be up to the individual schools, or a group of schools, or each co-op — there are 22 schools in our co-op so we may all go together and form a pool and try to bid for insurance," said Parrish. "I think that’s the way it used to be 25, 30 years ago and I think it was kind of a mini-disaster so the state took it over.
"But the state may decide we put this much money in the matrix for insurance, you handle it yourselves now. I would not be surprised if that happens."
In the meantime, teacher insurance, specifically the skyrocketing costs thereof, has been a hot topic around the capital since early in the 2013-2014 school year.
Teacher insurance was the primary focus of a special legislative session two weeks ago and changes enacted by lawmakers would have adversely affected two BSD employees, Parrish said last week.
Rather than have the two employees, classified as part-time due to a part-time status defined as working under 30 hours, eliminated from eligibility of insurance, the district will instead bump the employees’ hours to 30 to reclassify them as full time, Parrish said.
Another decision made in the legislative session will end up costing the district roughly $15,000 per year, Parrish said.
Though teachers will continue to benefit from cafeteria plan payments for insurance in which premiums are deducted prior to taxes, which will also lower reported earnings, the school will still be required to pay the 7.65 percent FICA taxes on the premiums, Parrish said.
"The schools are going to have to give that FICA savings to help offset the rising cost of health insurance," said Parrish. "Superintendents really aren’t that excited about that. We’re having to pay about $100 per teacher, per year and there’s not any new money coming in, but I think that’s part of doing business. You have to take care of your employees."
What the premium rates will be is undetermined for now, Parrish added.
In other maters last week Parrish reported the school district’s operating account is down about $270,000 from the same time a year ago. However, the superintendent said, it is not time to panic.
"That’s not something that cannot be fixed but we need to make sure we don’t do that two years in a row," he said. "Two years ago we had 1320 (students). Last year we were paid on 1290 so 30 students times $6,393 is right at $200,000.
"We’ve absorbed a principal’s salary, we’ve absorbed a couple secretary salaries and the next school year we may have to absorb a couple teacher salaries."
Parrish said other measures have been taken in categorical funding to also address the shortfall.
Even with the loss the school has an operating budget at $1.5 million, over $200,000 in a building fund and more in debt service accumulation for a total of $1.85 accessible.
"We’re not in a bind, but we did go down. I’d rather have $2 million in operating but we are down a little bit."