Going into their meeting last week, the Board of Selectmen were looking at a budget shortfall of $120K for fiscal year 2010. By the end of the evening, the budget was balanced, with the cuts coming entirely from the school benefits budget.
Town employees — excluding school employees — currently pay 22.5% of their health insurance costs, with the town paying the remainder. Next year that number will increase to 25%. Meanwhile, school employees pay only 20% of their health insurance costs. Chairman Bill Boland says this creates “an inequity in town.”
Town employees agreed to increases in their health insurance contributions two years ago as a way to cut costs for the town. Boland said if school employees did the same and agreed to pay 25%, it would save the town about $120K. Redesigning the health plan the school uses could save $80K.
Superintendent Charles Gobron agreed to take up the issue at this Wednesday’s school committee meeting. On the agenda for that meeting is a vote on whether to reopen negotiations on health insurance with the union.
“The rates are subject to collective bargaining, and the School committee is working with the teachers, first to institute a new plan design which will save everyone money, and secondly to address the future of health insurance costs,” Gobron said.
At a regional level, the district was able to offset an increase in health insurance costs by $323K by negotiating a new plan design with the teachers union.
If the K-8 school committee fails to reduce its health insurance costs, Boland said it would lead to “some very hard decisions on the town side.” Some of those decisions could directly affect town employees and services. More on that tomorrow.