County, school officials battling rising pension costs

Published 3:29 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2012

COURTLAND—For the first time, Southampton County supervisors will hold meetings with the School Board to discuss the schools’ budget.

The first meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. today, Feb. 15, at the Southampton Technical Career Center. Two additional meetings are planned.

County Administrator Mike Johnson suggested the meetings.

“I think it would be a much more collaborative process,” Johnson said Tuesday.

Superintendent Charles Turner agrees.

“We’re working together,” Turner said. “It’s a together process. Everyone is working together, which is really outstanding.”

Tonight’s meeting will focus on how personnel and benefits are expected to impact the 2012-13 school budget. Health insurance premiums may increase by 10 percent, while the General Assembly continues to debate Gov. Bob McDonnell’s pension proposal. It would require an increased contribution of nearly $1.14 million to school employees’ retirement funds.

As proposed, a 14 percent contribution would need to be made toward school employees’ retirement funds for 2012-13. The 3.3 percent increase will require an additional $225,000. This does not include teachers.

For teachers, a 16.8 percent contribution would be required, up from 6.3 percent in 2011-12.

“While the governor’s budget includes an additional $367,000 for Southampton County in state aid for teachers’ retirement, it will require the county to pony up an additional $912,000 for our local share,” Johnson said. The state covers less than 40 percent of the cost of teachers’ retirement, he added.

The pension situation remains subject to change until March 10 when the General Assembly adjourns.

Supervisors during their January meeting voted 6-0 to return $1.1 million of the $1.6 million that was unspent for fiscal year 2011. If the school district can prove it needs the extra $500,000, the board would consider it.