During Thursday’s work session, Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzeilo said the cost for insuring non-certified employees under the state health benefit plan has gone from $2.9 million in 2008-09 to $7.6 million in 2012-13.
For 2013-14, projections reach $10.1 million followed by $12.7 million in 2014-15, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health.
The costs have grown despite the fact that CCSD has 123 fewer non-certified employees than it did in 2008, with a total of 760.
Petruzielo said the district has used a consulting firm to determine cost-cutting options.
“I don’t like the options and certainly the employees are not going to like the options,” Petruzielo said. “But at this time, we are having to move forward at least to get good data for the board to have in front of them when a policy decision is to be made.”
Next week, the district will issue a request for a proposal to private companies for custodial and grounds services, which are presently provided to 239 school district employees.
Petruzielo made clear during the work session this is a “fact-finding” measure, but noted making the recommendation is “quite possible” if the RFP produces apparent cost-effective results.
“Several school systems statewide are having to do the same thing and some of them are going well beyond custodial positions to include lots of other functions,” he said.
Petruzielo said a recommendation could be made to the board as early July regarding grounds services and as early as January 2014 for custodial services.
On a related note, Petruzielo said the school district is in the process of developing an alternative health plan and/or health plan contribution model that could begin as early as January 2014 as an alternative to the state health benefit plan.
Petruzielo said the district will continue to develop other cost-containment models under consideration by staff, including modifications in staff size and alternative work hour/work day programs.
The options will be discussed further at the April 18 work session.
“These are things we believe need to happen in a timely manner for us to be able to present the board with a balanced budget for next year,” Petruzielo said.
Petruzielo said both custodial and grounds workers are highly competent and have performed quality work over the last several years and the move shouldn’t be considered an insult to the affected employees. He said about 85 percent of district operating budget is spent on employee salaries and benefits.
“This is not about an evaluation of their performance,” he said. “This is about not being able to afford to continue with the health plan that they have enjoyed for 20-25 years.”
Similar to last year, district officials will also likely have to use a number of other cost-cutting measures, including furloughs, increased class sizes, consolidated bus routes, leaving vacant administrative positions unfilled and delaying salary step increases.
“Now, we must make even more painful recommendations and decisions with the understanding that our primary mission — and our primary funding obligation—has to be teaching and learning,” Petruzielo said.
Following Thursdays’ meeting, district spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby sent an e-mail to all potentially impacted employees notifying them of the potential action and a meeting next week with all head custodians and principals to discuss the RFPs.
Board member Kelly Marlow asked whether the district might contact other insurers to provide alternate plans.
“Quite frankly, we’re not in a strong position to go out and create a health plan for 200 custodians,” Petruzielo said, noting the demographics of these employees tend to be more difficult to insure than teachers as they are generally older and have more health issues.
Petruzielo said he plans to provide the board with the best and most fair options in coming months.