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Budget adjustments to be made

Alma School officials will have to make adjustments to the 2014-15 budget after a hefty enrollment decrease this year means less money from the state.

Enrollment at Alma School District has declined each year beginning in 2010, with this year’s numbers at 96 less than last year. This means funding for the district will take a big hit, said Superintendent David Woolly at the regular monthly school board meeting Thursday night.

“When your enrollment goes down like that, state aide goes with it,” Woolly told board members.

Woolly wanted board members and attending personnel to be prepared for adjustments to spending and how things are budgeted next year, he said. Administrators have already started planning for any needed changes, he said.

“We will be okay,” Woolly assured the board, but added that he didn’t know what the future holds and if enrollment will continue to go down.

“We’re going to continue to do what’s right for the kids, but we’re going to have to do it differently,” Woolly said.

While Woolly couldn’t attribute the decrease in enrollment to any one thing, he speculated about the closing of Allens Canning Company in Van Buren and the lack of people moving into the area.

Woolly also announced that monthly health insurance premiums for employees would be increasing, in some cases by more than $527, beginning in January.

While Alma contributes $180 to their employees’ health insurance costs, which is $30 above what is required by the state, the premium increases will still be substantial, Woolly said.

“It’s a tough blow for our teachers,” Woolly told board members.

Employees who only insured themselves on the Bronze Plan, which is the least expensive, would see the smallest increase - $19.84 per month when before they payed $0.

Employees paying for themselves and their entire families on the most expensive plan - the Gold Plan - would see an increase of $527.30, making their total monthly cost $1,508.26.

Arkansas’ Employee Benefits Board voted to raise health insurance premiums for teachers and other school personnel by nearly 50 percent in some cases on Jan. 1.

According to reports, several million dollar claims in 2010 depleted the fund for the teacher health insurance program and less money is going into the fund because more teachers are choosing insurance outside of the program.

After the meeting Thursday, Woolly commented on the problem, calling it a “snowball effect.”

“The more people get out of the system, the more [the cost] goes up; the more it goes up, the more people get out of the system,” Woolly.

He did note that legislators are looking for alternate ways to fund the program and put off the premium hike in January.

Woolly reminded those attending the meeting that the school election will be held next Tuesday, Sept. 17. Voters will be deciding on a new board member and on funding for expanded safety measures at the schools.

Rinda Baker and Chapen Rucker are up for the board seat left open by Richard Craft, who was presented with a plaque at his last meeting Thursday night for 20 years service on the board.

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