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Insurance premiums up for school board employees

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By Steve Waters, Sports Editor

School Board of Levy County employees will have to pay a bit more for health insurance starting next year.
During this past Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved an 11.85 percent increase in rates for the district health plan, remaining under Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida.
As an example, a 12-month family health care plan that currently costs $903.76 will soon cost $1,011.09, starting next year.
The insurance company cited increases in health care costs and the recent national health care laws for the increases.
The changes were met with debate among the board members, with nearly all voicing concerns over increases in a budget crunch for the district. The board is expected to see hefty decreases in state and federal funding in the coming years, and the benefits increases were considered an unpleasant necessity.
“Do I like the increases? No,” board member Frank Etheridge said. “But I think it’s something we’re just going to have to live with.”
The changes also include a 5 percent increase in the managed care dental plan, and an increase in supplemental accident insurance.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a signed Memorandum of Understanding for a federal School Improvement Grant. A signed MOU was a required component of the district’s application process.
The memorandum stipulates that money from the grant will be used to provide bonus financial supplements of $2,500 for teachers and administrators and $350 for aides and other staff to recruit and retain talent at Williston High School, which was deemed an “F” school by the state in 2009. Also, a performance pay amount of $1,500 will be distributed to returning teachers whose students make learning gains in subjects such as math and reading.
The board also approved its 5-year work plan, which provides estimates for the district’s spending on things such as school building projects and improvements, technology and bus purchases. The plan indicated that Chiefland Middle School could receive upgrades to its food service facilities, starting in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
In his closing remarks, Superintendent Bob Hastings reiterated his concerns over the Class Size Amendment. He said the district has added three kindergarten teachers, three Pre-K teachers and a second grade teacher, but it will still not meet 100 percent of the amendment’s requirements.
He said that the amendment has worked in some larger school districts, but a rural area has a more difficult time of placing students correctly under the amendment’s guidelines.
“One size does not fit all,” Hastings said. “What’s good for Dade County isn’t necessarily good for Levy County.”