BAR HARBOR — Schools in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) will save a combined $399,819 because there will be no increase in the health insurance rate for the coming year.
Typically, in April, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield tells school superintendents across the state how much their rates are going up. But schools must have their budgets set weeks earlier, so they plug in a placeholder amount for health insurance.
For several years now, the MDIRSS schools have initially budgeted for a 10 percent rate increase, with the expectation that the actual increase would not be more than that. However, for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, the schools budgeted for an 8 percent increase.
Last week, Anthem informed MDIRSS Superintendent Marc Gousse that the rate the schools are currently paying for insurance will remain in effect for next year. Gousse called that “phenomenal news.”
It means MDI High School will be paying $119,867 less than the amount that was budgeted.
Savings for the other schools in the district will be: Conners Emerson in Bar Harbor, $74,875; Mount Desert Elementary, $47,753, Pemetic Elementary in Southwest Harbor, $46,110; Tremont Consolidated School, $39,003; Trenton Elementary, $28,171; Cranberry Isles schools, $4,661; Frenchboro School, $2,374; Swan’s Island School, $14,652; and the MDIRSS central office, $22,353.
In previous years, when the funds budgeted for health insurance were just slightly more than the actual amount, schools typically carried over the savings to the following year’s budget. When the difference was significant, school committees often amended their budget on the floor of their town’s annual Town Meeting to reduce the cost to taxpayers.
This year, Gousse and Nancy Thurlow, the school system’s business manager, are recommending that school committees retain and carry over at least half of the money they will be saving on health insurance.
Explaining that recommendation, Gousse said, “We are presently in collective bargaining (for a new teachers’ contract), and we don’t know where that will go.”
He also said the schools always want to make sure they have enough money to cover any increased insurance costs due to new hirings or the need of individual staff members to change their insurance plans.