Members of the Killeen Independent School District board took a number of critical votes at a special meeting Thursday, including passing a budget, adopting a tax rate and selecting a new health insurance provider.
The board voted 6-0, with Minerva Trujillo absent, to adopt the district’s 2015 fiscal year budget. With $372.6 million in revenue and $369.6 million in expenditures, the budget includes a 2 percent midpoint salary increase for employees, and raises starting teacher salaries from $43,000 to $43,500 annually.
The board then voted 6-0 to adopt a total property tax rate of $1.128 per $100 of assessed property value, which includes a maintenance and operations rate of $1.04 and an interest and sinking rate of 8.8 cents.
Those tax rates remain unchanged from the previous year, though net property values increased 1.8 percent, said Megan Bradley, the district’s chief financial officer.
The board also voted 6-0 to select Humana as the provider for employee health care. Choosing Humana over the Texas Retirement System’s TRS Active Care was recommended by consultants and interim Superintendent John Craft.
Craft and several board members cited concerns over the long-term financial stability of TRS Active Care as a reason to go with Humana.
“We all want to do what’s right for our employees,” Craft said.
Last year, several board members drew the ire of teachers when they voted for Blue Cross Blue Shield over TRS Active Care. Board member Shelley Wells indicated the board’s decision to pass on TRS again only reinforced last year’s vote.
“I would like to thank my fellow board members for vindicating the decision the board made a year ago not to commit our school district to a decision that would have tied the hands of this and all future boards, and would have prohibited our making the decision we made tonight,” Wells said in a written statement to the Herald on Thursday.
The board also voted to increase the district’s contributions toward employees’ health care costs. The board voted 5-1, with Marvin Rainwater in opposition, to increase employee health care contributions to $400 a month, up from $363.40. That price includes a $75 contribution from the state, upping the district’s portion by $36.60 a month. The board also voted to increase contributions to employee flex benefit plans from $189.14 to $200 a month.
The total cost will be about $1.1 million for FY 2015.
Richard Beaule’, a 42-year-old teacher from West Ward Elementary, came to Thursday’s meeting to ask the board to increase contributions.
“Any time you have an increase in health care (without) an increase in contributions, in essence you have a pay cut,” said Beaule’, who serves as secretary of the Killeen Educators Association.
Beaule’ said he was glad the board raised the contributions, but said it may not be enough to combat rising costs to employees.
“Any increase helps, but I’m concerned that it will not offset the premium increases,” he said.