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W-JCC School Board makes cuts, still faces $800k gap

Williamsburg-James City County Schools employees may see a change in benefits next year due to the School Board’s efforts to prevent a budget shortfall for fiscal year 2018.

The $132.7 million budget first presented at the board's Feb. 21 meeting includes a $5 million increase over the previous year. That means a $1.4 million gap in expenses and expected revenue, Chief Financial Officer Christina Berta said.

The School Board spent the majority of their Tuesday night meeting debating how to cut that figure down.

A heated conversation swirled around adding a spousal surcharge to health plans.

The change would require employees pay an extra $50 per month to include spouses on the division’s plan. The total revenue from the fee would depend on how many spouses stayed on W-JCC sponsored coverage.

If all of the spouses on the plan this year elected to continue despite the charge, the division would make roughly $185,000 each year.

The majority of the board agreed to add the charge, though hesitantly. Jim Kelly (JCC Jamestown) was not in favor and Julie Hummel (Williamsburg) was absent Tuesday night.

“I don’t support anything that’s going to take money out of the pockets of our teachers,” Kelly said. “The way I look at it, we are breaking a covenant to the profession.”

Changing health insurance plan choices was also a money-saving option discussed Tuesday.

The division offers three insurance plans with different price tags for both the division and the employee.

For employee-only coverage, the high-deductible plan costs the division $487 each month and the employee pays $15. For the mid-deductible plan the division pays $610 and the employee pays $25 each month. For lowest-deductible plan, the division still contributes only $610 and $82 is covered by the employee.

The premiums increase accordingly when looking at options for employees plus one other, and for whole families.

Chairwoman Kyra Cook (Williamsburg) suggested the division continue to offer all three plans, but contribute the same amount per plan. This would mean if an employee wants a lower deductible plan, a larger portion of the premium would fall to them to pay.

“I don’t want to restrict what’s available to people, but I want to hold tight to what we’re paying for it,” Cook said.

Cook’s idea is for the division to contribute the amount it currently does for the high deductible option — $487 for employee only, $875 for employee plus one and $1,250 for families — to all three plans.

There was board consensus that the new plan would only apply to new hires. Current employees would be grandfathered in, which means savings would be realized further down the road.

Including the spousal surcharge revenue, the school board cut the budget gap down to $800,000.

Keeping to their Feb. 21 decision to put the Pathways program expansion on hold and removing the planned purchase of two school buses saved about $420,000.

Claudio Palmaz was one of the five speakers who talked about budget concerns Tuesday during a public hearing.

He advocated keeping the Pathways expansion in the mix.

“(The delay) would mean my son would lose out on this program entirely,” Palmaz said. “$200,000 seems very reasonable. … I urge the school board to reconsider the delay in this program.”

Superintendent Olwen Herron said despite pausing the expansion, teams at Lafayette and Jamestown are looking at ways to implement the already planned classes next year.

The board will host a joint meeting March 17 with the Williamsburg City Council and James City County Board of Supervisors to further discuss the budget, before bringing it up again at their regular meeting March 21.

The School Board can either approve the budget March 21 or at a special meeting March 28. It must move on to the city and county for consideration by April 1.

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

Joint budget meeting

9 a.m. on March 17 with JCC Board of Supervisors and Williamsburg City Council

Room 300 in the Annex at the School Board and Central Office at 117 Ironbound Road.

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