Pasco County Schools should prepare to pay more for insurance, as it prepares its plans for the next budget year, said Allen Altman, a school board member who serves on the board’s insurance committee.
He recently attended a meeting of a statewide insurance trust that represents 400 public entities, including Pasco County Schools.
The news at that meeting about upcoming insurance costs wasn’t good, Altman said.
“The property market in Florida right now — to say it is in chaos, is an understatement.
“Many, many carriers are shut down completely or are bleeding so much money they’re leaving the state,” Altman told his colleagues during the Pasco County School Board’s Feb. 15 meeting.
“On the commercial side, which is what we are, the rate indications from the re-insurers so far, are running from 20% to 35% (higher),” he said.
Pasco expects to face rate increases in the 10% to 15% range, he said.
He told the board the reason Pasco is expected to face lower cost increases is because it has excellent data regarding its buildings and values.
He said he was told that out of all of the entities represented in the group, Pasco County Schools has the best data.
Still, the district will face increases and it needs to plan for that, he said.
It also will pay more because it is adding coverage for millions of dollars of new facilities that were finished in the past year, Altman said.
Another issue that is expected to result in higher costs involves a proposed change in state legislation, the board member said.
Under current law, under the auspices of sovereign immunity, government entities are liable for a maximum of $200,000 on a claim, unless a claims bill goes to the Legislature and gets approved, Altman said.
But a proposed change by the Florida Senate would increase that limit to $300,000 and a proposed change by the Florida House of Representatives would bump the limit to $1 million, Altman said.
At the moment, it looks like the Senate is accepting the House version, he added.
The proposed increase could be a “significant hit on a budget,” Altman said, especially since the school district has a large number of employees who operate vehicles.
Another issue demanding heightened awareness involves cybersecurity, Altman said. Government agencies are increasingly being targeted and some have fallen victim to successful Ransomware attacks.
While Altman raised issues about increasing costs, Don Peace, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, again urged the board to stand with the union to support a ballot initiative aimed at increasing funding to improve wages.
“We are now, the only district in an eight- or nine-district region without a significant secondary source of income for salaries and personnel.
“Again, I am asking this board to take a stand. Investigate the possibility of a referendum for the sake of the students.
“We cannot continue to be the lowest paid district in our region,” Peace said.
Board Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said efforts are being made to make state lawmakers aware of the impact their policies have on general funds, which are the source of pay raises for employees.
School board member Megan Harding wants district leadership to do more.
“I’ve said this before, but I’m going to have to say it again: We need to do better,” Harding said.
Exit interviews indicate that 24% of those leaving the district are doing so because of pay and benefits, she said.
“Burnout is very real, and our teachers and staff need to see action as to how much we appreciate them,” Harding added.
“I am sure there tools in our toolbox that we are not using, and I want to use every tool that we have to get our teacher and staff pay up to be competitive in our region.
“Other districts around us are making it work. Other districts around us are asking their community for help,” Harding said.
Published March 02, 2022