Wednesday, May 15, 2024
Westport schools seek $900K to offset health insurance costs.

Westport schools seek $900K to offset health insurance costs.

Westport School officials address higher health insurance costs

The Westport School district is facing approximately $900,000 in unexpected health insurance costs for the upcoming school year. The market rates for health insurance came in higher than what was budgeted for, prompting school officials to come up with a plan to cover the additional expenses.

Sharing the burden

The school board has proposed a solution to split the extra costs evenly between the school district and the town. They have approved $463,000 from their health reserves and are seeking the other half as a special appropriation from the town.

The Chair of the school board, Lee Goldstein, explained that this plan was discussed in collaboration with the finance board and the Representative Town Meeting. She noted that while the school board did manage to save the town a significant amount of money, they were aware that unexpected fluctuations in the budget were likely to occur.

Still saving overall

Despite the additional expenses, Superintendent Thomas Scarice emphasized that the transition away from the state health insurance plan had resulted in significant savings for the district. By leaving the state health insurance plan, they were able to prevent an 18% increase in costs.

However, the switch also meant that the district had budgeted an 8% increase for health insurance for the upcoming school year, with a 14% cap. The actual costs turned out to be much higher, surpassing both the budgeted increase and the cap.

Challenges in budgeting

Scarice acknowledged that budgeting for health insurance costs is always challenging, as the exact numbers are not available until spring. By then, the board has already adopted the budget, so they have to adjust and work with the numbers as they come in.

The actual costs of health insurance for the upcoming fiscal year exceed 20%, creating a shortfall of over $900,000. Scarice stressed the need to prepare for these increased costs and budget accordingly.

Financial considerations

To address the additional expenses, the district plans to use $463,000 from their health reserves. This will still leave them within the acceptable range of reserves. Elio Longo, the district’s chief financial officer, mentioned the possibility of adding any savings from the current school year back into the reserves.

Scarice also indicated the possibility of exploring a self-funded option, which would provide the school board with more control over the policy without affecting users or changing providers.

The district is currently on track with dental costs and is not concerned about any potential issues in that area.


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