By Logan Watson
The Milan Special School District’s Finance Committee met briefly last Tuesday night to discuss the issue of rising health insurance premiums for MSSD employees and what steps, if any, the Board could take to lessen the blow to the staff. The increases, which amounted to a sum of approximately $39,000, were not announced until after the Board had already approved the 2016-17 Fiscal Year Budget last month.
The committee, made up of School Board Chairman Sid Crocker, Greg Horton, Marty Elliott and Finance Director Shannon Petty, as well as Director of Schools Jonathan Criswell, sought to find a way to cover the added expense without passing the costs along to MSSD employees. When the budget was approved, the Board also approved a three-percent raise for all MSSD staff members, which would effectively be wiped out by the added cost in health insurance premiums under the plans offered by the district.
“The state has essentially given our teachers a raise,” said Elliott. “We can’t take it away to cover the insurance. That’s a morale buster.”
“We can’t predict an increase in insurance,” added Crocker. “If we give them a raise, we can’t tell them how to spend it.”
It was suggested that the Board could pull the $39K out of fund balance to cover the increases for 2016-17 and give employees a year to prepare for the added burden, but some members of the committee questioned whether doing so would set a precedent for the Board covering more expenses in the future.
Petty cautioned the committee against withdrawing money from fund balance to cover recurring expenses, but did inform the group that there were funds in other line items that could help offset the cost until the next fiscal year.
“We did the best we could with what we knew,” said Petty. “We haven’t been impacted until now.”
The committee ultimately decided to examine the current budget for unused funds and attempt to internalize as much of the costs as possible so as not to penalize the staff. The Finance Committee will meet again this week to decide whether absorbing the insurance increases is a feasible option before bringing the proposal to the Board.