School District Cuts May Pay for Health Care

By  | 

The $5.8 million legislators set aside last summer to cover unexpected health-care costs for public employees probably won't meet statewide needs, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn says.

For Nevada school districts, that may mean midyear cost-cutting at a time when most expenses are being finalized.

Guinn's warning came as the state Board of Examiners, which he chairs, agreed Tuesday to begin the process of giving school districts $5.8 million to cover some of their unexpected health care costs.

"We know we will receive a lot of applications," said Guinn. "They are going to be short" in money for health care.

All applications will go before the Legislature's Interim Finance Committee, which meets Jan. 28. That group must give its consent before applications for the money will be accepted. That's not likely before March.

State Budget Director Perry Comeaux said he won't know for sure how much money school districts need until the board gets applications from them.

Comeaux said legislators hoped the money would cover all increased health care insurance costs of school employees, but the school district's health care packages were developed in negotiations with employee unions. Final costs may be higher than available funds, he said.

"How close we end up with reality depends on what they negotiated," Comeaux said. "I doubt seriously it will cover it all."

Comeaux said districts can only use the money for health care costs of current school employees. He said higher health care costs of retired school employees are expected to exceed state budget appropriations by $8.7 million by June 30, 2005.