WESTPORT — In their first meeting since new board members took their place, the finance board took a whack at the town’s health insurance plans.

After the body unanimously re-elected Democrat Brian Stern, Chairman and Michael Rea, a Republican, Vice Chairman, Wednesday they discussed the health insurance plans for both town and education employees.

“We do have a tale of two cities here. We have a tale of the town where we have very high reserves relative to our ongoing performance in terms of claims. On the Board of Ed, they have very small reserves and are faced with claims issued like we haven’t seen in years,” Stern said.

Stern proposed combining both town and education employee insurance pools in the hope that the larger body will decrease the risk of depleting reserves and save costs. The board agreed to reach out to consultants to discuss a possible combination of the two pools

Despite a renewed focus on cost-savings in the health insurance realm, Stern said, “We shouldn’t be planning how many roads to pave, how many teachers to employ, and what subjects to have in school based on a medical insurance issue that is out of our control primarily.”

Instead, Stern said, “We’ve got to look at it separately and that might yield to a new structure. I’m not going to guess what that might be.”

Dr. Colleen Palmer, superintendent of the Westport Public Schools, expressed support for possibly combining town and education medical insurance expenses.

“I applaud the creativity on the part of the Board of Finance to maybe look at some other options. I think it’s very difficult when you have an area of your budget that’s so volatile and so large,” Palmer said.

First Selectman Jim Marpe also encouraged further exploration into a combination into the town’s largest health insurance pools and added, “I think the whole notion of the Board of Ed as an independent body is built around the notion of education, not insurance.”

The Board of Finance will next meet Jan. 9.

svaughan@hearstmediact.com; @SophieCVaughan1