State aquariums to increase admission prices

Published: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 08:43 PM.

The proposed increase is designed to offset both a dip in state funding and an increase in health-care costs due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The aquariums lost $100,000 in state funding for the current fiscal year, a drop preceded by $4.25 million in cuts the previous two years. The legislature this year directed the aquariums to develop a plan to “become more financially self-sustaining.”

The funding shortage is compounded by a provision in the federal health-care legislation requiring employers of a certain size to provide health insurance for employees who work more than 30 hours per week. The three aquariums employ more than 50 temporary employees who work 11 months out of the year.

Reducing their hours to avoid providing health insurance would likely lead those employees to find other jobs, according to the filing. “To continuously hire new temporary employees ... would be unduly burdensome and cost-prohibitive,” the filing says.

Health insurance premiums for the existing temporary employees are expected to cost $3,000 per person.

Thought the temporary rule allows the fee increases to be put in place, they will still go through a formal approval process. Public comments on the matter can be sent until Jan. 9 to David Griffith, North Carolina Aquariums, 3125 Poplarwood Court, Raleigh, NC 27604.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a reporter for the Wilmington StarNews.

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