School board OKs insurance benefits for non-teachers
by Megan Thornton
February 09, 2013 12:00 AM | 2802 views | 2 2 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Classified employees with the Cherokee County School District can now breathe a little easier after receiving notification Thursday their health insurance coverage will continue, at least for now.

At Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo said he understood concerns of non-certified (non-teaching) employees, as state officials recently announced financial support of school district employee health insurance would decrease.

“We do the best that we can for these folks and they certainly have the right to be nervous,” Petruzielo said Thursday. “We’ve complained that we don’t really have a lot of options but we expect to explore every option that is available to us. … We’re going to do everything we can to try and make sure those folks land on their feet.”

After taking effect Oct. 11, 2012, changes to the state health benefit plan by the Department of Community Health authorize local school boards to remove non-certified employees — including bus drivers, paraprofessionals and technology professionals — from the state health benefit plan after “shopping” for other plans or privatizing those services.

The district sent a letter to all classified employees Thursday to assure them no recommendation or decision has been made at this time and there is no need for employees to make immediate decisions about benefits or retirement.

“No decisions will be made until we know what the options are,” Petruzielo said. “And when we know what the options are, there will be additional communication so we can determine what the fiscal, operational and programmatic impact would be for each option that we consider.”

However, Petruzielo said the district doesn’t have the dollars it would take to maintain the status quo.

“We’ve had a $12 million increase from the state in premiums that we as the employer pay for the benefits for our classified employees just in the last 18 months,” Petruzielo said.

Petruzielo said he has received support from board members in pursuing every option available and seeking out options that would have the least-damaging impact on employees and their families.

“The board recognizes that this is not just a tremendous financial burden for the school system, but also it’s a tremendous financial burden for employees,” he said.

Petruzielo added the district plans to work with other metro Atlanta systems and state officials. Board members previously brought up the issue to the local delegation a meeting last week, but little support was offered by the local lawmakers

“I think before it’s all over, everybody’s going to be at the table trying to figure out what can happen,” Petruzielo said. “No one wants to hurt bus drivers, custodians (and) technologists.”

He went on to recognize that while teachers may get a lot of media attention, they could not do their jobs as efficiently without the work of those non-certified employees.

He also argued if the state health plan continues to be underfunded, it could also present a problem for certified employees.

“There may have to be a fundamental restructuring to the program at the state level,” he said, adding the public sector used to be known for affordable health plans but private companies are now getting better rates.

Board member Kelly Marlow thanked Petruzielo for addressing the issue in a timely manner.

“I think it’s important to let the professional staff at every level know that we hear them and that we understand what it is that we’re saying and we’re going to do our very best,” Marlow said.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
get a grip
February 12, 2013
all this man does is complain! Seeing as how he's bilking the taxpayers for a quarter million $$$/year, he's certainly not feeling any negative effects of rising healthcare costs.

i wish the man would keep his mouth shut and look for ways to fix this rather than constantly complaining.
Reality Check
February 11, 2013
Welcome to the reality of the private sector, Dr. P. Our healthcare expenses have been rising for years. Unlike you, we can't take money from taxpayers to subsidize these increases. Unlike you, we don't have a bully pulpit where we can incessantly whine & complain about these rising costs while simultaneously doing nothing to fix the problem.

We get it. You are finally awaking to the realities the rest of us in the private sector have been facing for years. More Funds aren't in the future, according to the local delegation, so Please - DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Stop complaining all the time and start earning your quarter-Million-$$$ annual salary. You personally aren't feeling ANY of the fiscal pain you so endlessly whine about.
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