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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Milford looks for school budget savings

By Brian McCready
Milford Bureau Chief
— Threats of teacher layoffs has prompted Board of Education leaders to suggest joining a proposed state health care consortium as a way to ease the school budget crunch.
School board Majority Leader Greta Stanford, D-1, and Chairman David Hourigan, D-4, said they both want city officials to explore the feasibility of joining state Controller Nancy Wyman’s planned health insurance consortium. They said it could save the city more than $700,000.
But Republican Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. said at “first glance,” the health care consortium would likely not save taxpayers any additional money. He said city officials will take a closer look at the proposal.
Richetelli said he is pleased Democrats are looking for ways to save money.
“We do that every day,” Richetelli said. “I’m glad they are thinking along the same lines.”
Wyman, along with municipal and labor leaders, earlier this month announced The Enhanced Municipal Employees Health Insurance Plan, designed to save tens of millions of tax dollars that municipalities spend on health insurance. Wyman said the self-funded plan would use the state’s buying power as leverage to help drive down the costs of health insurance by pooling municipal employees statewide into one risk group.
A town with 1,000 employees, including teachers, could save $720,000. Milford has 2,000 employees, including teachers.
Milford’s health insurance is self-funded. Stanford and Hourigan said it’s possible the city’s savings may not be as significant, but they said the city should still research whether funds could be saved.
“At this moment in time, any savings we could get will be to our benefit,” Stanford said.
The school board is seeking a $82.9 million budget, which the Board of Finance has reduced by $2.1 million. The school board’s budget proposal has been reduced from a 6.4 percent increase to a 3.7 percent increase.
City teachers pay 15 percent of their health insurance costs, education officials said.
At a PTA Council meeting last week, Hourigan said parents wanted to hear cost-saving measures to help ensure no teachers will be laid off. If the aldermen do not restore a significant portion of the funds the finance board cut, school officials are threatening double-digit layoffs.
Richetelli said he sent the information he received from Wyman’s office to Finance Director Judith Doneiko for review.
“We’re always looking for a way at making our health insurance more inexpensive,” Richetelli said.
Democratic Town Chairman Richard Smith said it was the Republican-led majorities in city government over the past two decades that have been responsible for raising taxes.


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