Manawa School Board reviews projections
By Holly Neumann
The Manawa School Board discussed possible shortfalls for the 2017-18 school year during a special meeting on March 27.
“Because the state has not passed their budget yet, this is still up in the air,” said Business Manager Carmen O’Brien. “What we have figured is that if the governor’s budget goes through, we will be short about $120,000.”
According to O’Brien, state representatives have said that they are not sure they will be able to find the money to cover what the governor has proposed.
“When it comes down to it, it’s kind of a little bit of a guessing game,” she said. “It’s very hard to pinpoint the numbers exactly right now.”
Another area of concern is the rising cost of health insurance.
“What we are looking at is a possible 20 percent increase in insurance,” said O’Brien. “Currently, the employee pays 14 percent and the district pays 86 percent for health insurance.”
A 20 percent increase would cost $143.07 for a family plan per pay period.
Insurance costs will not be renegotiated until May.
“Two major factors are considered. One is your pattern of usage and the other is the high claimant,” said Oppor. “These are critical factors. We can do some things like positive health promotion, but we are probably not going to be far off that 20 percent.”
Dental and vision, which is currently covered 100 percent by the district, is not expected to see a rise in cost.
Insurance costs have already been calculated into the $120,000 shortfall.
“One way we can save some money is if we were to increase the amount of money we expect our employees to pay for the insurance,” said O’Brien. “If employees pay 14 percent for all insurances, including dental and vision, there will be a savings of about $14,767 to the district.”
O’Brien pointed out that she is always looking for ways to make up the difference.
Another possible reduction area that could help make up the shortfall include transportation.
“We had an observation by a community member that three buses go past their home each morning,” said O’Brien. “We asked Transportation Director, Mr. Jim Quinn, to take a look and see if we could combine some routes. He is working on a plan of what that would look like, but it was not ready for tonight.”
She went on to say, that if indeed a route was cut, there would be a reduction in transportation costs of $14,332 in salary and benefits and it would defer the cost of a new bus for a year.
The district is also paying a former administrator and teacher other postemployment benefits, but that obligation will be paid off by August of this year, freeing up additional money.
In addition the Manawa School District will look into a reconfiguration of their insurance plan.
“When we go to negotiate our insurance, there are ways that we can possibly reconfigure what we have, so that we are paying less, but receiving similar services,” O’Brien said. “We cannot guarantee a cheaper plan with the same amount of service. We may have to consider raising deductibles, going to a point of service plan, or something to that degree.”
O’Brien went on to say, that she does not know exactly where the district is at, at this point in the budget. As the school year comes to a close, accounts will be analyzed for overages and shortfalls.
“These are ideas at this point,” said District Administrator Melanie Oppor. “We may need to make reductions greater than those represented here. I think this is a good start. This is the direction we are looking into, but no decisions have been made.”
The current budget, including the shortfall, already includes Professional Advancement Compensation Eligibility (PACE) and 1.26 percent increases in teacher salaries.
The board went on to approve salary increases for all staff members receiving a favorable evaluation.
The teacher’s salary will increase by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 1.26 percent calculated on their base wage and will also have an opportunity for PACE. The total of this package increase is an accrued cost to the district of $69, 281.
Support staff and administrators will receive a CPI increase.