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Thursday, October 02, 2014

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With new guidelines on health costs, school board closes book on one-time 'deficit'

Published 7:12 am, Tuesday, April 8, 2014
  • Board of Education member Brett Aronow, right, chairman of the Health Insurance Fund Review Committee, discusses that committee's findings Monday during a BOE meeeting at Staples High School. Photo: Anne M. Amato / westport news
    Board of Education member Brett Aronow, right, chairman of the Health Insurance Fund Review Committee, discusses that committee's findings Monday during a BOE meeeting at Staples High School. Photo: Anne M. Amato

 

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The Board of Education on Monday night unanimously approved the final report of the Health Insurance Fund Review Committee, which has been investigating a shortfall in the school district's health insurance fund at one time reported to be as large as nearly $2 million.

The ad hoc committee was established last December after the anticipated deficit in the 2013-14 budget was revealed by school officials. The group was to review the matter and report back to the school board on findings, solutions and recommendations on how to prevent similar problems in the future.

In reviewing that account, the committee found "several material control deficiencies," including the lack of adequate supervision with only one person in control of reporting and that "not all expenses were being captured in the health-care account," Brett Aronow, board member and committee chairwoman told the rest of the board Monday.

One "good finding," she said, is that there was "no malfeasance."

But the best finding, Aronow added, is that there will be a cash surplus instead of the projected shortfall in the current budget.

The anticipated $2 million shortfall, after further study, was initially reduced to $355,009, but that figure was revised -- based on financial data from medical claims in January and February -- now show a projected budget surplus of $293,000.

Some recommendations of the committee include having the board "build a budget with detailed line items." The panel also recommends that the school board meet with "external health insurance consultants to review claims and projections, timing these meeting to coordinate with the preparation and adoption of the budget at least on a bi-annual basis."

Also, the committee recommends a review and monthly report of health-care claims be made to the board, she said.

It also recommended that the school administration and the board, along with the town funding bodies, "agree collectively on a risk reserve policy to manage the health-care account -- line 210 in the board's budget." The committee, Aronow said, suggests this policy should be put "in place as soon as possible."

Charles Haberstroh, a citizen member of the committee, also suggested formulating a plan for an "early-warning system" for claims above $100,000. He said the board needs that type of system to "project large expenses."