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Potsdam schol officials expect major jump in health care premiums

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By RYNE R. MARTIN

POTSDAM - The Potsdam Central School Board of Education set its budget preparation calendar for the 2013-14 spending plan at its meeting this week.

And the challenges begin.

The board also got yet another glimpse at the challenges they will face again this budget season when Business Manager Laura Hart provided the board with an update on the St. Lawrence-Lewis Health Care Consortium’s quarterly report.

She noted the consortium had been using fund balance in recent years to keep the premiums at a relatively stable level in recent years, but Ms. Hart noted the fund balance has now been depleted to a level that will require a premium increase in the 9.5 percent range - a hike of approximately $400,000 for Potsdam Central - for the 2013-14 school year.

“We are required (by the state) to reserve 25 percent of anticipated medical and prescription costs. We have a waiver and only have to reserve 17 percent for the coming year,” Ms. Hart said.

She also noted there is legislation pending that would reduce the mandated reserve for prescription costs down to 5 percent, a potential savings in the $2.5 million range for the St. Lawrence-Lewis Health Care Consortium.

She said that potential cost savings has been included in the budget proposal that still calls for the 9.5 percent premium hike.

The district is also expected to see its contribution to the consortium’s worker’s compensation fund jump by approximately $9,000. The district’s contribution to the worker’s comp fund was $91,400 for the 2012-13 school year.

She said the self-funded worker’s compensation fund is stable but feeling cost pressures requiring a rate hike in the 7.5 to 10 percent range.

“Once concern is the maximum weekly worker’s comp rate has almost doubled from 2007 from $400 per week to $700, 800 per week. There has been a 30 percent increase since June 2010,” she told school board members.

She said the maximum payout for carpal tunnel surgery, for example, during that same time period has jumped from $29,280 to $57,579.

Ms. Hart said the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Consortium will be finalizing its rates for 2013-14 in February.

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