Committee to meet less

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A joint city/school commission created to find ways to save money has decided to meet once every two months, rather than every month, as it awaits the results of some of the projects it already has instigated.

The City School Advisory Committee on Collaborative Fiscal Concerns will meet next on Sept. 14 at 11 a.m. in the City Council conference room at City Hall. It could also have special meetings if necessary.

Energy savings, health insurance and joint space use are some of the projects the committee already has started investigating. It has requested an update from city staff at its next meeting.

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The energy performance contracting program is a state program under which public entities enlist a contractor to perform energy-saving upgrades. If the monetary savings do not at least cover the debt service on the upgrades, the contractor will write a check for the difference.

The possibility of a joint health insurance plan also is being discussed. That brought the most discussion at the committee’s meeting on Monday this week.

“We have a different philosophy” on health insurance, School Board member Linda Bouchard said. She added that part of the reason school employees have such nice health insurance plans is that the division was trying to compensate for not being able to give raises.

“Our thinking is going to have to change in light of the Affordable Care Act,” she said.

School Board member and chairman of the committee, Judith Brooks-Buck, worried about the perception of reducing health care plans after a long-anticipated raise.

“We just gave people a raise,” she said. “There’s the perception of taking it back.”

But City Councilman Mike Duman noted it would be at least a year, if not longer, before there would be any action on changing the plans.

“We really need to start looking down the road,” Councilman Tim Johnson said. “I think, down the road, we are going to be better under one umbrella.”

In addition to joint space uses, a fourth project possibility — joint staff for transportation — was raised this week after last week’s School Board meeting included a report on the school system’s transportation issues.

“Some of those problems we may be able to solve with the help of the city,” Bouchard said.