Thursday, August 06, 2009

Healthcare inflation reaches every nook and cranny

We often read these days that healthcare inflation is holding wages down. Looks like it also cuts into educational programs (as well as doubtless holding teachers' wages down). Here's some news from my hometown of South Orange, NJ (united in a school district with Maplewood):
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The school district will pay higher health insurance premiums for its 750 full-time employees starting in January.

The news did not catch the district off-guard. They budgeted a double-digit increase in anticipation that premiums would go up.

But in a decision that affects districts statewide, the 25 percent increase that the School Employees’ Benefits Commission approved July 14 was more than what officials thought it would be.

“This is a kick in the pants,” said school board President Mark Gleason Tuesday.

He said the district had enjoyed a couple of years of moderate increases. This, however, was far different.

“Every year, it takes more and more away from our budget,” Gleason said.

With $112 million budget already set for fiscal 2009, the district will need to find savings or cut spending to make up the projected $400,000 difference between the budgeted rate hike versus what was approved last month.

Every year, the school budgeting in our towns is an exercise in squeezing blood from a stone, a desperate struggle over this cut or that. How timely that this year, healthcare is taking an extra bite.

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