School Board approves millage rates; employees to get health benefits break

The Sarasota County School Board is scheduled to adopt its final 2013 fiscal year budget during a public hearing at 5:15 p.m. Sept. 11 in the board chambers at The Landings. Photo by Norman Schimmel

While the Sarasota County School Board is being required by the state to raise its required local millage rate for the 2013 fiscal year, federal government action is going to result in a break for employees on the district’s health-care plan next year.

No one appeared to speak during a public hearing held July 31 on the FY 2013 budget and millage rates, a sign, board Vice Chairwoman Carol Todd said, that the public approves of the budget

The School Board voted unanimously to accept the proposed millage rates and the tentative budget for the 2013 fiscal year, with a state formula dictating that the required local effort millage rate rise to 4.568; it was 4.387 in FY 2012.

The total tax rate is set to increase by 0.181 mills over the 2012 fiscal year level. That means a person with a $100,000 house will pay about $18 a year more in school taxes.

Todd made the motion to accept the millage rates, which total 7.816.

The tentative FY 2013 appropriations budget the board approved, as presented by Superintendent Lori White on July 24, is about $643 million. That includes approximately $173 million in the Capital Projects Fund.

As for the health-care benefits: In response to a question from board member Shirley Brown, Chief Financial Officer Mitsi Corcoran explained that the district’s HMO health-care plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, or Florida Blue, was having to refund money it had received in 2011 premiums.

The federal Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — prevents insurance companies from using more than 15% of the premiums they receive through large group plans (those withmore than 50 people) for administrative purposes. The amount being returned to the school district, Corcoran said, would be applied to the district premiums for health insurance benefits for the 2013 fiscal year. That would result in lower costs for employees, Corcoran added.

Al Weidner, the district’s deputy CFO, told The Sarasota News Leader Aug. 1 that the district expected to receive about $805,000 from Florida Blue. The district has 2,723 employees and retirees in that plan, he added.

The monthly premium the district pays per person in the plan is $521, Weidner said. The amount an employee or retiree pays depends on whether the person has an individual plan or whether the plan provides family benefits.

The Florida Blue website says the company expected to pay about $36 million altogether in rebates by Aug. 1, as required by the federal law.

According to the executive summary provided with the tentative school district budget on July 24, employee benefits will account for about 10% of the district’s spending in FY 2013, or approximately $74,079,875. That category includes the district’s contributions to the Florida Retirement System as well as its share of Social Security and Medicare payments, and worker and unemployment compensation premiums.