Proposed budget built on controversial change in health care system

The recently submitted budget proposal for Trumbull for the next fiscal year is already the source of controversy.

First Selectman Tim Herbst delivered a budget proposal presentation on Trumbull Community TV Feb. 10 that closely followed his written letter preceding the budget posted on the town’s website for Trumbull’s 2016-17 fiscal year that begins on July 1.

He summarized the $163.4-million budget — a proposal that could lower Trumbull’s mill rate from the current 32.87 to 32.77 — as one that would “reduce spending, stabilize our taxes, grow our economy, and continue to improve a nationally recognized school system” and “makes meaningful investments in public safety and also continues to fund and improve vital town services.

“With all of these investments, overall expenditures have increased a modest 1.87%,” Herbst added. “This will likely lead to a reduction in residential property taxes.”

But a critical component of the budget is the projected savings of $3 million from a change to the health care plan for all the employees under the Board of Education, as well as the town side employees under the new state health care system.

The first selectman stated that “after examining critical data and with careful deliberation, it has been determined that the Town of Trumbull and the Trumbull Board of Education will realize savings of $3 million by participating in the state healthcare system.

“The state healthcare system has been met with favorable reaction from our collective bargaining units and the savings realized will allow our Town to hold expense levels in check,” Herbst said.

But before the budget proposal was even presented on TCTV, all six of the bargaining units under the Board of Education had already filed a grievance against the change in the health care program.

According to Tammy Baillargeon and Jane Kluspes, the co-presidents of the Trumbull Education Association, which represents all Trumbull teachers, none of the BOE-side bargaining units support the change.

“A grievance has been filed by all bargaining units on the BOE side. The TEA has yet to hear anything back from the BOE,” Baillargeon and Kluspes told The Times in a statement. “There was a violation of our contract when the board voted to change insurance carriers on Feb. 2, 2016. We have asked the board to allow us to receive the results of our disruption analysis, which has not yet been completed.”

The current collective bargaining agreement between the town of Trumbull and the TEA provides for a change in the insurance plan under Article 7, Section 1.7, that states:

"In the event the Board decides to change carriers during the term of this Agreement or to self-insure in whole or in part, the Board will provide the same coverage described above or their equivalent and will give the association notice of its decision at least thirty (30) days in advance of its implementation."

The TEA has requested that an insurance consultant conduct the disruption analysis to determine if changing the health care system violates the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement.

On Tuesday, Feb. 16, a Board of Finance budget hearing will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Town Hall and a Board of Education meeting will be held at the Long Hill Administration Building at 7 p.m.