Health Plan Savings First Step Toward Averting School Layoffs
City school officials and union leaders have agreed to a plan that could save the district about $2 million in health care costs. District leaders heralded the deal as a first step toward cooperative solutions to the district’s ongoing budget crisis.
San Diego city schools expect to face a budget gap of more than $70 million for next year. Without employee union concessions, or unexpected funds from the state, closing that gap could mean nearly 800 more layoffs.
Under the tentative deal employees in more costly health insurance plans who switch to lower-cost plans would get a portion of the money saved. The school district made a similar savings deal in 2006, according to Bill Kowba, the district superintendent.
“We’ve come up with a win-win situation in terms of providing an incentive even though we’re in the middle of a closed contract for employees to switch from the more expensive health plans to a less expensive health plan, which will potentially save the district about $2 million,” said John Lee Evans, president of San Diego Unified's Board of Education.
Employee union presidents are pledging to work with district leaders to find other savings. Evans said those conversations will have to include pay concession to stave off job losses.
The $2 million savings may seem modest in the face of the the budget gap the district is facing for 2012-'13. But Evans said the agreement was a sign that district leaders and unions were committed to working together.
“This district will not go insolvent, we will do everything to protect the financial health of this district because we insist on maintaining local control of our district," Evans said. "We’re not going to allow anyone from the county or the state to takeover.”