State School Superintendent John Barge will meet with the Richmond County Board of Education to discuss economic issues facing Augusta schools.
The meeting was arranged by state Rep. Wayne Howard and the local legislative delegation, according to Director of Student Services Carol Rountree.
Board member Jack Padgett said he is especially interested in talking to Barge about the proposed rise in non-certified employee health insurance costs. By fiscal year 2014, the school system will have to pay $1.7 million more in health insurance payments unless the state intervenes.
“It’s almost in crisis mode now,” Padgett said. “This year was a major hit, but the next two years are going to be a lot worse.”
The increase in what the school system will pay for insurance from 2013 to 2015 is equivalent to 49 teaching positions, according to Controller Gene Spires. The district is already dealing with a $34 million shortfall in state funding for this school year.
“My question is do we want to continue all these services that we’re doing ... at the expense of teachers?” Padgett said. “We are supposed to be an educational institution first and foremost.”
Padgett said he hopes the meeting with Barge is helpful. The health insurance increases are not set in stone and can be changed with the help of state officials.
“These can be changed if you get to the right people,” Padgett said.
Other topics, such as student achievement and operational funding, could be on the table, but Padgett said the budget will be an important issue.