Educational paraprofessionals in Ralston, Papillion-La Vista and Springfield will soon see shorter work days to avoid federal health insurance mandates.
But Bellevue and Gretna school officials say the mandates won't affect their part-time employees' hours.
Under the Affordable Care Act — popularly known as Obamacare — employers will be required to provide people who work more than 30 hours per week with health care benefits. However, some districts will reduce hours to avoid counting employees as full time.
The mandate will go into effect for school districts in the 2014-15 school year.
Current paraprofessionals across Sarpy County school districts work 6.5- to 7-hour days. A reduction to 6-hour days would make it so the districts wouldn't be required to provide health care benefits to part-time employees.
The Papillion-La Vista School District has decided to move in that direction. The district expects to save about $400,000 in health care costs for its 132 paraprofessionals.
Annette Eyman, a district spokeswoman, said the district reviewed research that found most paraprofessionals would rather forgo benefits for higher salaries — adding insurance would likely mean cutting wages to balance budgets.
Papillion-La Vista plans to hire additional paraprofessionals to cover the difference in hours. After staff reductions, school paraprofessionals in Ralston will also see shorter workdays.
In Ralston, part-time paraprofessionals qualify for district retirement benefits. Ralston is evaluating administrative records to determine whether the district would be required to provide them with health care benefits.
“If we have to scale back hours to fit within that threshold, we will be doing that,” Superintendent Mark Adler said. “There's no way we can add health insurance for 105 employees, especially with the fiscal situation we're in.”
The Springfield Platteview Community Schools has 43 paraprofessionals who will be affected by the legislation, said Superintendent Brett Richards. They currently work 7.5-hour days and more than 30 hours per week. The district plans to shorten their days to less than 6 hours.
Richards said the district can't afford the cost of health care benefits for its paraprofessionals.
“In the end, for us, a revenue-strapped district, it'll be difficult for us as far as keeping hours for the paras,” he said. “The health insurance is not sustainable in the long run.”
Two suburban districts say their part-timers will be unaffected by the health insurance mandate.
Bellevue Public Schools already provides paraprofessionals with an option for affordable health care plans, said Amanda Oliver, a district spokeswoman.
The Gretna Public Schools District isn't worried about the Affordable Care Act, said Superintendent Kevin Riley. Former Superintendent Gale Copeland set a precedent that part-time employees aren't allowed to work more than 30 hours per week.
The district has about 70 paraprofessionals who work 29.5-hour weeks.