The Halifax County School Board decided to absorb a more than 10% increase in health insurance for its employees when it met Monday evening.
The board had previously earmarked $500,000 for the insurance increase, but when Pierce Group Benefits consultant Gray Hooker approached the board on Monday, they discovered they were short $179,000.
The total health insurance cost for 2022-23 will be $7,127,568, or $679,944 more than the cost for 2021-22, representing a 10.5% increase.
Board members then had to decide whether to absorb the additional $179,000 or pass the increase on to employees through an increase in their health insurance rates.
If they had passed on the increase in health insurance to the employees, an employee receiving the employee-only rate would have seen an increase of just over $11, from $82 to $93.48 .
The insurance rate for employees and children would have increased from $436 to $497 and the rate for employees and children would have increased from $615 to $701.
Acting Superintendent Valdivia Hall also reminded board members that they did not see a health insurance increase last year and received help from a COVID cut. .
But, Lacey Shotwell, administrator of ED-6, said: “If we can find a way to do it, I think we should. This is really a bad time to increase health insurance.
She said the raise was a bad time, with the board facing pay issues and scrambling to rectify pay increases that left some staff with a half-percent raise.
She then made a motion that they pay for the increase in health insurance, leaving health insurance rates as they are for employees, which was seconded by ED-3 administrator Melissa Hicks.
ED-2 administrator Jay Camp called the decision to pay for the health insurance increase “difficult” because they are faced with other budgetary needs such as security.
While ED-5 administrator Freddie Edmunds told Hooker he was giving them “short notice”. But, Hooker explained that he was “held” by their carrier. He said the school board had one more year with Local Choice and then he could shop around.
Vice-chairman Roy Keith Lloyd also reminded the board, before making its decision, that it was seeking equal funding from the Halifax County Board of Supervisors.
Shotwell added: ‘We are in a very difficult position’ without having a finance director.
Hicks then reminded the council that he had heard paraprofessional Lori East during comments from citizens who said some paraprofessionals weren’t even earning minimum wage.
East also told the board that she needed to borrow money so she could put gas in her car so she could attend the meeting.
“Did any of you have to borrow money so you could be here tonight,” she asked the board.
Also during a citizen comment, a bus driver asked them to reconsider the salary of bus drivers.
Devin Hall, a former English teacher at Halifax County High School, also called the recent pay adjustments a “kick in the teeth” for educators. He said some educators received a $5 pay raise.
Other managers, directors and coordinators have received salary increases in the thousands.
” The people are crazy. They’re frustrated and we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up,” Hall said. He also asked the board to reconsider its leadership.
Later in the meeting, Hicks said, “We need to take better care of our people.”
Lloyd then asked if they had to cover health insurance costs, what would they reduce? Nobody answered.
When the board voted on Shotwell’s motion, it passed five to three with Lloyd, Camp, and ED-7 administrator Keith Mcdowell voting in opposition.
Regarding salary adjustments, the Board plans to hold a business meeting at 9:00 am on March 21 to review and revise salaries as needed.