Dr. Jo-Ann Keating

Recent Articles

‘The District Is Always Looking for Ways To Rationalize Costs’: Board of Ed Spotlights Money-Saving Efforts

Through contract negotiations, competitive bidding, new carrier agreements and shifting retirees to a state health plan, New Canaan Public Schools has saved nearly $1.6 million annually in the area of employee benefits, district officials said last week. About 80 percent of the district’s operating budget is devoted to staff salaries or benefits and that is an area “we can be creative in and have some good thoughtful conversations is around the type of health benefits that we offer our employees,” Dr. Jo-Ann Keating, NCPS director of finance and operations, told members of the Board of Education at their regular meeting May 21. Public schools officials looks especially at plan design changes, such as those in other districts, and cost-sharing options, Keating said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. Together those components “do generate quite a bit of savings for the school district.”

“And it is really the one thing that we are able to use to offset our salaries, because salaries grow at a much lower rate than health insurance does,” Keating said. “You have close to double-digit increases with trends in some years whereas salaries lower percentages.”

Specifically, she said, the district is saving $747,000 per year through contract negotiations (by replacing a PPO with a high-deductible plan for both certified and non-certified staff, and a 1 percent savings through cost-sharing), $326,000 through competitive bidding (stop loss insurance changes that significantly increased the threshold, creating risk, but saved money as fewer claims came in, and life and long-term disability), and $506,000 through carrier agreements such as pharmacy rebates and performance guarantees, as well as transitioning retirees from Cigna to the state Teachers’ Retirement Board or ‘TRB’ plan. Continue Reading →

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New Canaan High School Per-Sport Spending [TABLE]

On a per-student, per-season basis and before private donations are applied, New Canaan Public Schools projects next fiscal year to spend the most money among all sports on NCHS girls ice hockey ($2,264), followed by boys ice hockey ($2,094), girls gymnastics ($2,072), girls softball ($1,437) and girls golf ($1,311), according to district officials (see table below). Within the total NCHS athletics program cost of $1.47 million for fiscal year 2018, the varsity football team at an estimated $154,993 by far would garner the highest percentage of spending for any single sport, according to the schools’ budget book. Football’s high participation (158 total athletes across four teams) drives that overall cost, as does its large combined coaching staff of 16—more than twice the next-closest sport (boys’ lacrosse, at seven), according to the data. Overall, NCPS expects to spend about 23.7 percent more on combined boys’ sports versus girls’ sports next year—$589,875 versus $477,033, the data shows. On an average per-student basis, it expects to spend about 11 percent more overall on boys than girls, before shared costs and private contributions are considered, according to the district’s own data. Continue Reading →

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District Officials Tweak Accounting Procedures To Track ‘Student Activity’ Funds More Closely

Following an audit last year that unearthed some problems, district officials are changing the way they manage cash-heavy funds surrounding activities such as clubs, athletics, theater productions and yearbooks. Most of the $422,389 opening balance in “Student Activity Accounts” (see page 66 here) for this year resides at New Canaan High School, and the largest single portion of the money runs through 100-plus extracurricular clubs, according to Dr. Jo-Ann Keating, the district’s director of finance and operations. A 2015 audit turned up “significant deficiencies” in Student Activity funds, as well as in food services, and prompted the district to develop new accounting procedures, Keating told members of the Board of Education at their meeting Monday night. The auditors “said that the Board of Education has no processes in place to monitor Student Activity funds,” Keating said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “Because there is not a separation of duties with cash receipts and revenue taken, the board should review the controls to make sure that proper procedures are in place so it can be monitored on a regular basis. Continue Reading →

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Town Council Approves 2 Percent Increase To Budget for Fiscal Year 2017

Praising the diligence of municipal workers and volunteers, as well as district officials for the granular level of detail made available in their own spending plan, the Town Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a total budget for next fiscal year of $141,121,088. The first budget passed since the widely discussed Audit Committee was put in place, it marks a 2.09 percent year-over-year increase, including a 3.66 percent bump in the Board of Education’s operating budget (driven mainly by health insurance costs). For the first time in recent memory, no one spoke during the public comments section of the final budget hearing. Town Council Vice Chairman Steve Karl publicly thanked the Police and Fire Departments, New Canaan Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Department of Public Works, including its highway division, New Canaan Library and others. Addressing the Board of Education—several members of which attended the meeting with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi and Director of Finance and Operations Dr. Jo-Ann Keating, among other administrators—Karl called their budget presentation “amazing.”

“You worked real hard, you guys came prepared and had the most information we have ever had, so thank you for that,” Karl said during the meeting, held at Town Hall. Continue Reading →

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Board of Ed: Nonresident Teachers’ Kids in Public Schools Are Not Driving Classroom Staffing Costs

Nonresident teachers’ kids who attend New Canaan Public Schools are not pushing any class sizes past a tipping point where, under the district’s own guidelines, a new teacher must be hired as a result, officials said Tuesday night. In a year where health insurance costs are acknowledged to be necessarily high, salaries and benefits account for 81 percent of the Board of Education’s proposed $87 million spending plan for next fiscal year. Staffing levels are determined in part by the district’s own class size guidelines, and town officials have asked the school board to look hard at those guidelines in this budget season. Board of Ed Chair Dionna Carlson told members of the Town Council and Board of Finance on Tuesday that she investigated the question of teachers’ children and total “sections” in the schools, “and I can tell you, I did the analysis: There are no additional hires that occur due to teachers’ children being in the district.”

The comments came during a joint meeting in which Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi presented the Board of Ed’s operating and capital budgets, together with Director of Finance and Operations Dr. Jo-Ann Keating and other district officials. The finance board and Town Council each will review, discuss and possibly tweak the BOE’s proposed spending plan again prior to voting on it. Continue Reading →

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