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Board of Education discusses health care costs

Caroline O’Kane
At the BOE meeting, (from left to right) BOE member Michael Gordon, BOE Chair Elaine Whitney and Superintendent Elliott Landon discussed health care.

Hours before proposing their budget to the Board of Finance (BOF), members of the Board of Education (BOE) had a closed-door meeting in which they made about $1.1 million in cuts.

The reduction came in response to a review of the schools’ healthcare expenses, which found medical claims for this year to be lower than expected and predicted that the town would end the year with $293,000 left in cash reserves.

This represents a sharp contrast to the projections made in December, which indicated a possible deficit of nearly $681,309. BOE Chair Elaine Whitney explained the situation in December.

“If the trends continued as they were seeing them in that point in time…by May or June we would have run out of cash in our reserve account,” Whitney said.

When the BOE created their original budget proposal, they worked off those earlier projections and planned to ask for a special appropriation of about $1 million to cover the unexpected costs.

Whitney said that no cuts were made to other areas to account for that expense.

“During the budget process, we tried to separate the two distinct issues,” she said. “There was no direct trade-off.”

Then, just before the budget was due to be reviewed by the BOF, new information came in, indicating that original projections were too high and that the schools could afford to cut back on healthcare costs.

Because those costs were handled separately, Whitney said, the last-minute session before proposing to the BOF had no impact on what she called the “core budget,” areas like salaries and supplies.

“When we made the adjustment based on the latest information about healthcare, it reduced healthcare numbers but it didn’t affect any dollars in the rest of the budget,” Whitney said.

Instead that $1.1 million cut was entirely for healthcare. The BOE eliminated $382,800 in response to lower cost predictions by the consultant. They then took out another $733,700 that was originally intended as a “risk corridor:” a kind of buffer in case costs increase unexpectedly.

Although that buffer was removed from the formal budget proposal, it isn’t gone completely.

According to BOF member Tom Lasersohn, the plan is to wait and see what expenses actually add up to at the end of the year before determining what funds should be devoted to building up that risk corridor.

“If in fact the claims come in as currently expected, at some point the [BOE] will come to the [BOF] asking for extra money,” Lasersohn said.

Despite the confusion, Whitney made assurances that Staples would get all necessary funds.

“There will be no major budget-driven changes to Staples,” Whitney said.

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About the Contributors
Megan Root
Megan Root, News Editor
Megan Root ’15, never stops running, whether it is on the soccer field or chasing a story. She began her Inklings career her second half of junior year as a staff writer and has recently transitioned into a position as a news editor. Before Inklings she was an avid reader of the New York Times who loved politics and education. To Root, one of the main attractions of the paper was it gave her the opportunity to discover more about her school and community. “It gives you cover, you are not just a random person asking questions you are a reporter asking questions.” To Root the interview is the key to the story. After every interview she writes down all of the interesting quotes and pieces of information she took away. It is from this information that she tries to find the story. One piece she wrote that she believes best showcases her ability to do this is Genders split over weight-training. Although the story was originally supposed to be about how some teams were getting more time in the weight room than others, she discovered that the boys’ teams just wanted more time in the weight whereas the girls teams did not. Root has some personal experience with sports, as a varsity athlete and senior captain of the girls varsity soccer team at Staples. She says when she was about three years old her older brother, who also played soccer, started to teach her. And she was marked for success right from the start, “My first game...nobody else really knew how to play, so I had this really unfair advantage, and I scored twelve goals my first game.” She continued that success through high school, making the varsity team her freshman year and becoming captain her junior year.  
Caroline O’Kane, Creative Director
To Caroline O’Kane ’16, dedication comes naturally. As Creative Director for Inklings, O’Kane is in charge of all the photos and graphics that go into the printed issues, and is behind the camera for many of them. Her love for photographic journalism began freshman year, when her older sister asked her to take photos of her journalism class for an assignment. From that moment, O’Kane was hooked and continued to take photos of everything she could capture.  O’Kane’s passion for photography is equaled only by her passion for gymnastics. Over the summer, O’Kane traveled to Finland to compete in the 15th World Gymnaestrada with gymnasts from across the globe. “The coolest part was being able to create bonds through gymnastics, with people who didn’t even speak your language,” she says. O’Kane would love to continue with photography in her future, but doesn’t know if she would like to make a profession of it.  Wherever she ends up, however, she will be sure to bring her passionate spirit with her.

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