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Hacienda La Puente Sees Insurance Soar : Leap in Health Costs Hits School District

June 16, 1988|JEFF MILLER | Times Staff Writer

The Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, already faced with the task of cutting $4 million from its 1988-89 budget, may have to trim another $1 million because of a dramatic increase in health insurance costs, according to Supt. James E. Johnson.

The district, which spent more than $4 million for health insurance this year, was informed that the premiums for its employee health-care program, provided by Blue Cross of California, would increase by 57%.

"We had budgeted for a 15% increase, but we were afraid we were going to get 25%," Johnson said this week, adding that district officials expected the premiums to go up because employees suffered an inordinate number of serious health problems and some had lengthy hospital stays in the past year.

District Unprepared

However, the district, which expects to receive a 4.1% cost of living increase from the state, was unprepared for the steep jump in premiums, Johnson said. A 57% rise would cost the district $2 million more than it has budgeted for health insurance costs, but Johnson said he hopes to negotiate with Blue Cross to reduce the amount.

"We will negotiate that fee down some," he said. "We're confident of that."

Johnson said that even after negotiating, mthe district may have to pay about $1 million it had not anticipated.

The district and its teachers recently resolved a bitter labor dispute. After working without a contract for almost the entire school year, teachers and school officials reached agreement on a three-year pact calling for an 8.8% wage increase over the next two years.

The district serves 23,000 students in Hacienda Heights, La Puente, City of Industry and Valinda.

Proposed Cuts

Johnson has proposed paring $4 million from the budget by eliminating 140 positions, including 40 that require teaching certificates, and reducing library hours and bus service. The reductions include 11 1/2 classroom-teaching positions at the district's four regular-curriculum high schools.

Although Johnson said he has tried to minimize the impact of the budget cuts on the classroom, leaders of the Hacienda La Puente Teachers Assn. have said the district is cutting teaching positions and sparing administrators.

The district's Board of Education last week directed Johnson to prepare a list of alternative spending cuts.

The board will discuss them in a study session Monday night and will hold a second public hearing on the revised budget-cutting proposals on June 24.

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