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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Hillsborough considers trimming health benefits to close shortfall

TAMPA -- Teacher layoffs are still off the table in the Hillsborough County school system, superintendent MaryEllen Elia said at a Tuesday workshop.

But something has to give as the district faces a growing budget gap for next year. At the moment, officials are taking a hard look at health care benefits.

If no changes are made, the district will pay around $29 million more just to keep its existing Humana policy as it is, benefits manager Deborah Henry told the board. Doing so could push the district's budget shortfall to $37 million.

Board members offered no easy answers at the workshop. But district officials left little doubt that, one way or another, changes are coming.

"Layoffs or salary cuts are the only way to pay for that insurance premium," said Jean Clements, president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers' Association.

But she said the union would do its best to ensure that teacher compensation -- either in salary or benefits -- won't suffer as a result. On the contrary, she said, her union is hoping for a bit more as contract negotiations begin this Friday.

"Throughout the year the district has been looking for ways to have a small (pay) increase," Clements said. "Even a small increase would help pay for the increased cost of insurance."

-- Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 10:07am]


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