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Ridgefield School Board Finds Insurance Savings In Budget Plan

The Ridgefield Board of Education cut its overall budget for 2013-14 after the final negotiations for health benefits saved an additional $325,000.
The Ridgefield Board of Education cut its overall budget for 2013-14 after the final negotiations for health benefits saved an additional $325,000. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. - A last-minute negotiation with the Ridgefield Public School District's health benefits brought about a decrease in next year's overall budget plan.

The $325,000 savings in the Cigna health benefits brings the total budget plan's increase to just less than $1.8 million, or a 2.84 percent increase over this year.

“This is really wonderful news,” Superintendent Deborah Low said.

Originally, the health benefits were looking at an increase of 5.35 percent over the 2012-13 school year, or about $694,448. According to the district’s insurance consultant, Rob Fitzpatrick, a senior vice president of Brown & Brown Insurance, the district took a “hard stance against Cigna,” and pushed back against the initial renewal rate.

The insurance company had planned to put the health care package out to bid, Fitzpatrick said, but that proved unnecessary as Cigna came back with a more favorable rate.

“In the interest of the board and the students and taxpayers, we held out and we got our number down to where we believe is a solid number and will sustain the claims payments going forward,” Fitzpatrick said.

The board unanimously approved the total budget, now at just less than $83.1 million in spending for next year.

That 2.84 percent increase would include the new $515,000 for security staffing , which potentially involves two new school resource officers, or SROs, and a new police cruiser for the officers.

The addition of those two SROs is one of the more contentious items in the school budget that will be presented to the Board of Selectmen this Wednesday.

The SROs are necessary, given the changing landscape of school security after the deadly Newtown school shooting , school board members said. But the concern is where the SROs will be placed in the budget, either in the school or the town line items.

Both budgets are funded by the taxpayers, and it's simply a matter of where the line item is placed, school board Vice Chairwoman Irene Burgess has said several times and repeated Monday night.

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