NCSS not planning to cut benefits

COVINGTON - Teachers and other employees in the Newton County School System may not have to shell out as much extra money for state health benefits as some thought last week.

During Tuesday's Newton County Board of Education meeting, board members voted to remove the action item from the agenda that would have approved the reduction in the school district's portion of state health insurance premiums paid for employees.

In last week's work session, NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley recommended that the school board change the amount of premium it pays per employee for state health insurance to a flat rate of $50 per month instead of the higher premium it now pays.

Whatley informed the board in Tuesday's regular meeting that the state Department of Education notified NCSS officials Friday afternoon of new information regarding the state budget cuts. As a result of the new information, the school system expects to receive a cut of about $1.9 million, instead of the possible $2.2 million or more it expected earlier this month.

"Having received that information, we ... decided the item should come off the agenda," Whatley said.

The school system pays about $78 per month for employees who were working with the school system on or before July 1, 2004, and about $58 for those who were employed after June 30, 2004. Whatley's recommendation to the board in last week's work session could have saved the school system about $300,000 in 2009 budgeted expenditures.

Even though the board will continue to follow current procedures - at least for this budget year - Whatley said school system employees should expect state health insurance premiums to increase. Open enrollment is scheduled from Oct. 10 until Nov. 10.

The school system is expected to review the employee benefit on the state health insurance plan before the 2010 budget is put in place, as more state budget cuts are expected by that time.

Deborah Robertson, associate superintendent for administration at NCSS, told the board previously that neighboring school systems in counties like Rockdale, Henry and Walton require their employees to pay the entire insurance premiums themselves.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.