EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 8, 2012

Salem to shave health-care costs

By Doug Ireland direland@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — SALEM — The town has negotiated a deal with its insurer to slash a projected health insurance increase from 18 percent to 12.3 percent, saving thousands of dollars.

The agreement with Cigna saves the town more than $200,000.

That means selectmen will move forward with a much-debated proposal to spend $75,000 on computer system upgrades, according to Selectman Stephen Campbell.

Questions about the health insurance increase and the need for the computer upgrade delayed the board’s final action on the proposed $37 million budget for 2013.

Selectmen had approved the budget and sent it to the Budget Committee before Town Manager Keith Hickey found out about the insurance increase.

Selectmen spent nearly two hours reviewing the budget line by line to cut $282,000. But they didn’t make any final decisions until receiving answers on insurance costs and information technology needs.

Hickey gave them three options Monday. They voted, 3-2, in favor of the plan that provides an average rate increase of 12.3 percent.

Selectmen Everett McBride Jr., James Keller and Michael Lyons voted in favor of the insurance plan, while Campbell and Chairman Patrick Hargreaves were opposed.

McBride said it was the best option for the town.

“I think we will find it will give us a better rate,” he said yesterday. “I think it’s reasonable.”

Selectmen opted to keep $75,000 in the budget for IT expenses, some of that to buy a generator to power an air-conditioning system.

Fire Chief Kevin Breen has applied for a grant to fund half of the approximately $60,000 needed for the generator. Portable fans had to be brought in last week when Sandy knocked out power to Town Hall, causing the temperature inside to rise to the mid-80s and endanger expensive computer equipment.

The Budget Committee was scheduled to take its final vote on the plan last night before presenting it to voters in March.