(WBIR - Oneida) An East Tennessee school district says changes in federal law are forcing them to cut hours and insurance for some employees.
In order to meet the Affordable Health Care Reform Act requirements, the Oneida Special School District has reduced 18 full-time positions to part-time. The employee's salaries will remain the same, but they will only work 29 hours per week and will lose health insurance through the school.
"We explored every option we could," said director of schools, Ann Sexton. "We took our budget apart, and we have a very small budget."
She says meeting those federal requirements would cost the district about $300,000. Sexton said district officials could have cut things like buses, athletics, or even entire positions.
"We did not want to do that. We wanted to make it as painless as we could," she said.
Instead, school leaders compromised on hours and insurance for some employees. The change will impact non-certified employees working in maintenance, cafeteria, transportation and teachers assistance positions.
William Terry learned has family would be hit twice. While he works in maintenance, his wife works in the cafeteria at Oneida High School. The couple, who Terry says both have diabetes, will each lose insurance in January.
"It's hard. We've been checking around and our insurance is going to cost us close to $1,000 a month," he said, citing a relative's costs as an example. "It's a bad situation for us."
Terry, who is in his sixties, said he is nearing the end of his career.
"If worse comes to worse I can retire," he said with a shrug.
Sexton said district officials have promised to help their employees find new insurance carriers. Earlier this month, she invited private insurance providers to attend a meeting with employees to help answer questions about their options. She will also be researching the laws exchange program options.
"Nobody really knows what this is going to look like," she said. "We know there's going to be some exchanges and some type of subsidy set up people can get insurance through, but we don't know what that's going to be."
The Oneida Special School District includes three schools. Its 1,200 students make up just one-third of the students in Scott County, therefore the district receives one-third of the funding from Scott County Finance, according to Sexton. She said the district's federal funding has been cut recently, making their school budget even tighter.
"Right now I'm trying to be proactive, not reactive," Sexton said. "We can't come to the end of the year needing $300,000 because we would have nobody to go to."