Health care negotiations push final budget vote to March 21

A switch in health care providers that would save the town more than $3 million continues to hold up the Board of Finance's final vote on a proposed $163.4-million budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. 

Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst confirmed Monday afternoon that the board's vote, scheduled for Tuesday, March 15, was postponed a second time until next Monday, March 21, to give all the Board of Education's bargaining units more time to review the change to the CT Partnership 2.0 Healthcare Plan.

Board of Finance chairwoman Elaine Hammers told The Times that the meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Town Council chambers in Town Hall.

"Hopefully we will have more information on the insurance change by then," she said. "We really can't wait longer than that since by Charter we have to send it to the Town Council by March 24."

The Board of Education approved the change at their meeting on Feb. 2 — a move that has already delayed one finance board budget vote, originally set for March 2.

"We're looking at a delay on the vote and hopefully that both sides can work towards a resolution," Herbst told The Times.

He confirmed that the union leaders were meeting with the town's representatives Monday.

Board of Education chairwoman Loretta Chory told The Times that "discussions are ongoing."

"Not only with our teachers, but with all BOE bargaining units," she said. "Meetings were arranged last week for representatives from all our bargaining units so that their questions and concerns about the change to the CT Partnership 2.0 Healthcare Plan could be addressed by staff from the State Controller’s Office that oversees the plans, as well as representatives from United HealthCare and CVS Caremark."

The Board of Education proposes to switch all its employees to the new state health care system.

If the unions under the education board decide that the move is in violation of the collective bargaining agreement or they come to the table with a counter-proposal for compensation, the town, along with both the education and finance boards, will have to scramble to balance the budget and avoid a shortfall.

Hammers in February that one way or another the budget will be balanced. 

“We will have a balanced budget,” she said. “We just don’t know whether or not we will have the proposed health care savings,” she added. “And, from a Board of Finance standpoint, we need to know which way this thing is going to go pretty soon.”

Almost three weeks later, and no such resolution has been made.

“The timing has been unfortunate because we are tied up with the budget and felt the need to get it in this year,” Chory said in Feburary. “Our decision to go forward with it ran really close to the budget cycle.

“We didn’t want to cause any disruption and we didn’t want there to be any grievances — we love our teachers, we love our employees,” she added. “But the timing was such that we didn’t have another move to make at that point. …

“The move has been made and now we have to patch things up.”