District Caps Administrator Health Benefit Costs

District Caps Administrator Health Benefit Costs

At their meeting on October 11, Board members in the Inglewood Unified School District supported the actions of State Administrator Dr. Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana as she announced the first of several major steps aimed at bringing the District’s deficit budget into balance. At the forefront of expected changes is the District-paid health benefit cost for all school administrators that will be capped, effective January 1, 2018. 

According to Chief Business Official Eugenio Villa, it is estimated that this change will save roughly one million dollars over the next three years. The District is currently working to tackle an approximate and unanticipated eight million dollar shortage that must be addressed quickly. “The benefit cap is the initial step in a current plan to build a sustainable, strategic plan that will result in continuing educational improvements for students, and a solid financial foundation for services,” he adds.
The proposed change impacts approximately 50 administrators; some more than others, with those who select full family coverage impacted the most. All administrators are still eligible for up to $9400 in premiums, but will now have multi-member family coverage at an additional employee expense. The District plans to seek broader options in health coverage in the months ahead and hopes that lower cost plans can be offered in the coming year.

“This is a painful step we struggled to take, but one we made because we have so few options,” said Dr. Meléndez. “We certainly understand the impact this will have in some families. But in the current insurance climate, and given the financial conditions of the district, we must contain our benefit costs. There are so few places in our budget where we can make decisions that get us closer to a balanced budget. Increasing our state loan does not bring us closer to local control.” 

The District is currently under state control because due to a budget shortfall and is presently repaying a $28 million State loan. The current deficit was discovered when Eugenio Villa acquired the top finance position during the summer. He called it “a perfect storm of financial issues” which included enrollment and funding projection inaccuracies, escalating costs of health benefits for employees, and the impact of a State loan repayment on the general fund. 

In an ongoing effort to address the deficit this year and return the District to stronger financial footing in upcoming years, Dr. Meléndez will be bringing a series of proposals forward. She announced that school consolidations and closures will be needed, and that efforts will be made to attract additional income through efficient use and lease of un-occupied district property. She noted that many vacant positions will not be filled; and that in non-teaching units of the District – mainly administrative offices, had its budgets reduced by 20%. 

“We will be building a stronger strategic plan with staff and community input over the next couple of months, and believe that we can weather these cuts with the cooperation of our community, unions and our Board,” says Dr. Meléndez. “I am confident, in a couple of years from now, that this Board will be making independent financial decisions in the best interests of our students, staff and taxpayers. We will also be celebrating significant improvements and outstanding academic achievement throughout this District.”

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