by Mariah Melendez
At the Cheshire Board of Education meeting held on Jan. 21, the issue of funding the Districts depleted medical benefits fund was front and center, following the release of Superintendent Jeff Solan’s 2021-2022 budget recommendation.
During his presentation on Jan. 14, Solan explained that the largest increase he is requesting in the budget is to replenish medical benefits, which have been severely drained this year due to multiple high-cost medical claims.
“The goal of my budget recommendation this year is to increase medical benefit funding to match any expected claims and to restore the pool,” Solan said. “Medical benefit restoration will compromise 48.2% of this year’s overall budget increase.”
Overall, Solan is requesting a total budget of approximately $78.5 million, or $3.89 million more than the current budget. Approximately $1.9 million of that would be for the medical benefits fund, with the second largest increase — $746,572 — requested for teacher salaries.
At the meeting, Chief Operations Officer Vincent Masiciana attempted to answer the many questions BOE members had regarding the fund and why it had been depleted to such an extent over the last year.
“What we can say is that our pandemic and COVID-related expenses are not high,” he stated. “It is other extraordinary items, like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and things like that, which have really affected us. I don’t know if it’s occurring (in other districts), but it’s certainly occurring here on both the Town and the Board of Education side.”
Masciana also suggested that one of the issues may have been that people were apprehensive about going to the doctor because of the pandemic, which could have led to the severity of some issues increasing over time.
“People are (approaching their health) differently because of the pandemic, and that may be a big force in why this has happened,” he suggested. “But other than that, we really don’t know why we are experiencing this, but we will know more when we go through all the data.”
Masciana said that he receives reports from Cigna on a yearly basis, and will soon be receiving the report for 2020, which will shed some light on the health impacts related to the District.
“The reports typically come at the end of the year, but we will request that they send it to us sooner to figure out why,” he said.
The BOE plans to meet again this evening, Jan. 26 to discuss the budget, with the expectation that members could possibly vote on a final plan On Thursday, Jan. 28.
If no agreement is reached, the Board will take up the issue next week.