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In Putnam Health care concessions help

PUTNAM-The proposed 2011-12 Putnam Central School District budget is down thanks to a new employee health care program.

The proposed spending plan totals $2,152,314, a .01 percent cut from the present $2,152,427 budget.

Putnam's tax levy in the proposed 2011-12 budget is $1,644,887, an increase of .91 percent from the current tax bill of $1,630,017.

Voting on the budget proposal and a board of education seat will be Tuesday, May 17, 1-8 p.m. in the school gymnasium.

"The overall net decrease in spending is mainly attributable to some savings in health care costs based on some employee concessions and implementation of an HRA, some reductions in special education costs based on enrollment decreases," Matt Boucher, school superintendent explained.

Putnam Central School District is subject to the community rating system for health insurance since it has fewer than 50 employees. The district has 14 staff members.

"Simply put, there is a law on the state books that says that insurance carriers do not have to negotiate with these groups to make changes to policies or raise rates," Boucher said. "Also, you cannot combine with any municipal agency to try to raise your membership to over the community rating mark (50 employees). I have tried to lobby our region's representatives for a change in this law, but the insurance carriers contribute too much money to our representative re-election campaigns for them to propose a change.

"What that means for Putnam is that our carrier proposed a 40 percent rate increase this year," he said. "The New York state insurance board approved an increase of around 15 percent. Also, the carrier increased deductibles on certain items as much as 100 percent of the previous rate.

"In order for us to remain in compliance with negotiated health insurance items, we were forced to re-negotiate health insurance with the employees for the fourth time in seven years," Boucher explained. "What we decided was to implement an HRA (Health Reimbursement Account) for each employee which has a set dollar amount to reimburse employees for certain large deductible items in the insurance plan. The HRAs are use contingent, so that there is a guaranteed savings both in potential costs under the HRA and in our ability to keep the initial health insurance premium low.

"The staff agreed to the changes, understanding both the economic climate and Putnam's unique insurance situation," he said.

The proposed budget contains no new programs and no cuts.

"Just some minor tightening of all areas," Boucher said.

Putnam has 35 students in its kindergarten through sixth grade building. The district also pays tuition for 45 Putnam students to attend Ticonderoga Middle School and Ticonderoga High School.

In the board of education vote, incumbent Richard Wilson is running unopposed for a five-year seat on the board.

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