Affordable Care Act may affect school budgets - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Affordable Care Act may affect school budgets

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TRIPOLI (KWWL) -

Schools across Eastern Iowa are facing some tough decisions when it comes to their 2013-2014 budgets.

Specifically, they are reviewing President Barack Obama's Affordable Health Care Act, colloquially known as "Obamacare," and how that will affect them.

All schools in Iowa have a number of part-time employees. Under the Affordable Care Act, if part-time employees average more than 30 hours a week, their employers -- in this case, the schools -- must provide health insurance.

The schools have a tough decision to make: Either cut hours, cut people, or pay for the insurance.

The Tripoli Community School District, like most school districts, doesn't currently offer insurance for their part-time employees.

They have 85 employees. Nearly half of them work part time.

Superintendent Troy Heller said that, despite the school's sound financial condition, they're now trying to figure out how to pay for these part timers' insurance.

For Tripoli, insurance could cost roughly $200,000.

Heller said 95 percent of his part-time employees already have other insurance from their spouse.

So the question is, do they have to take the insurance?

"The answer that we are getting so far is yes," Heller said. "In fact, the answer we are getting is everybody has to come back to our insurance. We also offer some of our teachers the ability to opt out of our insurance and go with their spouse, but what we're getting is we have to bring everybody back onto our insurance by this law."

Heller also said at smaller schools, the only way they receive money is with student enrollment.

"As a superintendent who has to deal with the budget, it definitely makes you nervous because you had intentions of putting that money somewhere else," Heller said. "Then, naturally at a smaller school, the only way you receive money is by student population. And most smaller schools around the area in Iowa -- if you're not living in a big town -- most of your schools are losing kids."

That's true in the Tripoli Community Schools, which have lost 17 students from last year to this year.

That is $105,000 they will not have for the 2013 budget.

Governor Branstad obviously isn't pleased with the federal mandates.

In fact, he says there are still a lot of questions to ask, including whether his education plan -- which injects more than $100 million into schools over the next five years -- will improve student achievement or just cover part-time insurance cost.

He did suggest that schools, and even small business owners, look at other options.

"I think there is a situation where you just decide not to cover anybody and just pay a penalty," Branstad said. "That's maybe not the best alternative either, but I think they need to look at all options.

"We as a state are looking at this too," he added. "We don't like all the federal mandates in 'Obamacare.' We are trying to look at what are the best alternatives to deal with it."

Heller said his school board still has to vote, but he thinks the district is leaning towards paying for the insurance instead of cutting hours or people.

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