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Many worried that Montgomery County would eliminate incentive payments.
Monday, April 29, 2013
CHRISTIANSBURG — Part-time employees of Montgomery County’s school system told the school board Monday that they are worried about the federal health care overhaul.
At a public hearing on the school budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, six of seven speakers voiced concerns about a spending cut that is not in the school’s financial plan but that they said they fear is ahead.
What had the part-time workers rattled was an element of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, a piece of legislation that takes effect across several years. Next year, large employers will have to provide health insurance for workers who put in more than 30 hours per week. The part-time workers said Monday that many of them do work more than 30 hours. They said they are afraid that the school system, which has been battered by a succession of tight budget years, will cover the cost of their new insurance by taking away special incentive payments now given to part-time workers after they stay with the schools for several years.
Some workers use the incentive payments to pay for their own insurance, some save the money for their retirement, and some need it immediately to cover bills, said Kathy Duncan of Christiansburg, who is in her 26th year of driving school buses. It has been several years since drivers had a pay increase, and doing away with incentive payments or reducing hours to keep them under the 30-hour threshold would devastate morale, she predicted.
“This room is filled with your part-time employees, one of the pillars of our school system,” Duncan said.
“I love this job,” she continued. “To some it’s just a paycheck, but to me it’s part of who I am. … I humbly ask that the hours we are eager to work continue to be granted to us.”
Keisha Miller of Christiansburg, who put in 17 years driving buses in Montgomery County and in another school system, said that taking away the incentive pay “will put a lot of us near the poverty level.”
Jon Barnes of Blacksburg, a driver for 10 years, said incentive payments vary but can add $4,000 or more per year to a part-time worker’s income. He asked the school bus drivers who supported keeping the incentive payments to stand, and more than 20 people rose to their feet.
Kim Haraf of Christiansburg said her husband has muscular dystrophy and her part-time school job is one of three jobs she works to pay her family’s bills. “If you pull anything away from us … I’ll be in a spot,” Haraf told school board members.
The only speaker not to talk solely about part-time workers’ concerns was Susan Miller of Christiansburg, who told the school board that reducing the number of physical education teachers would be a mistake.
After the meeting, schools spokeswoman Brenda Drake said that there is nothing in the schools’ 2013-14 budget that would change incentive payments for part-time workers.
The school board is scheduled to formally adopt its budget on May 7.
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