Health care on the rise for schools

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 17, 2005

Health insurance costs for Suffolk Public School employees will be jumping by 20 percent next year.

But just as they have in the past, school division staffers on the employee-only plan will only have to pay 4 percent of total cost of premiums, said Michael Brinkley, the school system’s finance director. The school system picks up the remaining 96 percent.

Costs will vary accordingly for employees with more than one person on the policy, he added.

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&uot;Costs in the healthcare industry are soaring,&uot; said Brinkley, after the Suffolk School Board meeting on Thursday. &uot;It (a 20 percent increase) sounds like much more than it is.

&uot;Actually, the increase is not that different from the one last year.&uot;

Health insurance premiums for school employees rose 18 percent last year, Brinkley said.

But some school systems experienced increases upwards of 30 percent last year, he added.

Nonetheless, the insurance premium increase will absorb any pay raise given to employees, according to board member John R. Riddick.

&uot;A 20 percent increase is almost out of sight,&uot; he said. &uot;I think we should study the matter further.&uot;

Brinkley refused to discuss details of the proposed 2005-2006 school budget, which won’t be released for public review until the first week of February.

The school board’s budget public hearing will he held on Feb. 10, when School Superintendent Dr. Milton R. Liverman presents the proposed budget to the board.

As the state goes into the second year of its biennial budget, Brinkley said, the school system is not likely to receive much more than the $63.5 million in state funds it now receives.

Board member William Hill, also a former Suffolk educator, said the budget needs to include funding to meet intensifying demands for more advanced course offerings.

&uot;The city will still have to step up and stretch the dollar for us,&uot; said Hill.

&uot;They (those classes) cost money and I think the community expects that. it goes beyond a bare-bones budget.&uot;

Also on Wednesday, the board unanimously approved the purchase of 5.3 acres of property on Shoulders Hill Road, rounding out the 19-acre campus for Creekside Elementary School.

The board is buying the property from the Catholic Diocese of Richmond for $318,120.