For months, the Board of Education and the public waited for the final health care costs to come in, so the town would see what the school district’s budget for next year would look like.
If the numbers came in high, as many feared, programs and possibly even positions would have to be cut. But thanks to some “competitive bidding,” the health insurance bid came in with a 8.48 percent increase, less than the 10 percent increase the board anticipated.
“I’m just really happy,” Board member said.
The proposed 2012-13 school budget keeps everything the same as this year, and adds , a more complete learning through service program and the talented and gifted program as part of the school day (it is currently ). The overall budget is $44.2 million, a 2.99 percent increase from this year’s $42.9 million total, and just below the 3 percent increase
“This is good news,” Superintendent Jerome Belair said.
Waterford's Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting still have to approve the budget before it becomes official. The delay in health care costs was because the town was out to bid on health insurance, and just decided on the final bid.
The Surprising Health Care Bid
The health care budget will increase 8.48 percent next year, according to district documents. While that is a “significant total,” it is far less than the 30 percent increase the board had to deal with last year, Belair said.
The 8.48 percent increase is surprising considering the district, as of March 1, , with still four months left in the fiscal year. The reason the bids came in low was because the town went out to bid for health insurance, and got a favorable result, Belair said.
“What we learned from this is bidding works,” he said.
The Board of Education, in January, , or a 3.04 percent increase, after they assumed health care costs would rise by 10 percent. Health care costs only rose by 8.48 percent, or $663,633.
That put the budget at $44.14 million, or a 2.85 percent increase from this year’s total. But after some discussion, the Board of Education voted to add a contingency teacher to the budget, a $63,048 increase, bringing the total to $44.199 million.
This previous August, the district had to hire another teacher one week before school began because so many students left the Friendship School to enter Waterford’s kindergarten program. This contingency is in place if something like that happens again, but won’t be spent unless it is needed, Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen McCarty said.
Still, there are questions unanswered. The board, along with the town, has still not decided how to pay off this year's $1.76 million deficit in health care, with four months left in this fiscal year for that deficit to possibly increase, First Selectman Dan Steward said after the meeting.
Additionally, the municipal budget factored in no increase for health insurance. Any increase in health insurance will increase the budget, and thereby the tax burden for next year.