School Board Grappling With ‘Risky’ Cut To Health Insurance Reserve Fund

Just weeks after the town slashed the New Canaan Board of Education’s health insurance reserve account by $1.1 million for the fiscal 2015-2016 year, members of the board are now discussing how they would deal with a potential worst case scenario in which claims exceed the amount budgeted and eat into the reserves. During Monday’s Board of Education meeting at New Canaan High School, Dionna Carlson, who heads up the board’s educational resources sub-committee, said, “Through our work on the health insurance account we have identified a problem with our health insurance reserve as it relates to the health insurance reserve policy that was put into place in April 2014.”

That policy, crafted in cooperation with the Board of Selectmen, calls for the board to maintain 60% of the approximately $3 million health insurance reserve, known as the stop loss health corridor, as part of its budget, while the town maintains the other 40% in a special reserve on the town’s books. (To save money, the Town of New Canaan self insures as opposed to using full insurance.)

On top of this, the town maintains a special “incurred but not reported” (IBNR) reserve account, of about $1 million, that is used to cover claims that occurred in the fiscal year but which are not processed until after the fiscal year has ended. Members of the Board of Education and the school administration feel that the recent deep cut to the board’s reserve account puts the board at risk of defaulting on claims in the rare event that a high volume of claims draw down the health insurance budget and eat into the reserves. The town’s rationale for making the cut was basically that the board’s health insurance reserve fund is routinely overfunded at the end of each fiscal year.

Oct. 15 Public Hearing Set for Rarely Seen, Proposed Sale of Town Property to New Canaan Family

Calling it a “special” situation that merits public vetting, officials on Wednesday set an Oct. 15 hearing date for the proposed sale of a small, town-owned Lukes Wood Road parcel to a family that lives behind it. Aris and Patricia Kekedjian for about two years have tried different ways to acquire a .1-acre strip of land between their property and the road, so that they can build a stone wall there (to keep their kids and children’s friends away from the street). Public works officials say New Canaan has no use for the land and that the property line is only drawn as it is because it predates any town standard. Yet there is little precedent for similar property sales, and no rule in New Canaan’s Zoning Regulations or Town Code that facilities such a land transfer.

P&Z Chair on Developer Loophole: ‘There Are Some Real Threats’

Though he declined to name specific properties (so as not to give anyone ideas), the chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission on Wednesday said the town is at risk of seeing unwanted housing complexes shoehorned into New Canaan by developers leveraging a state law whose spirit and intended purpose—not always evident in practice—is to boost affordable housing stock. Under normal circumstances, that’s a widely embraced goal by New Canaanites who point to valued, essential workers such as teachers, police, firefighters and public works crewmen as candidates for affordable units. Yet the Affordable Housing Appeals Act (sometimes called “8-30g” for its statute number) when abused is a tool that developers wield in order to get around rejections of site plans locally. “There are several parcels in town which may be targeted by—and I’m sorry to say this—probably mostly out-of-town developers who would like to come in and propose 8-30g affordable units there,” P&Z Chairman Laszlo Papp said Wednesday during a Town Council meeting. The law is triggered in municipalities where less than 10 percent of the housing stock is considered “affordable,” by the state’s definition.

Officials: $18 Million New Canaan Town Hall Renovation on Time, Budget

The widely anticipated renovation of Town Hall is on pace to wrap up next spring and officials said Monday that even after earmarking about three-quarters of what’s been budgeted for contingencies, the project is on track to come in at its estimated $18 million. According to the Joseph Zagarenski of Bridgeport-based firm The McLoud Group, which is overseeing the project as construction manager, the project is within two days of schedule and with the installation of steel by the end of June, “We will be 100 percent on schedule.”

“The foundation is 95 percent of the way complete,” Zagarenski said during a meeting of Town Hall Building Committee III, held in the Adrian Lamb room at New Canaan Library. “The frame will go up in the next two to three weeks. It will be a huge difference in what you see.”

A project expected to improve dramatically New Canaan’s main municipal building and services, the Town Hall renovation since its inception has been guided by principles of creating a modern facility (adding ADA accessibility and built-in technology to ease public use, for example) while retaining the historic character of the original 1909 structure (it was designed by celebrated architect Edgar Alonzo Josseyln after he’d won a competition for the right to do so, historians say—by then he’d already designed what’s now called the “Old Town Hall” of Stamford). The following renderings of the renovated New Canaan Town Hall are from White Plains, NY-based KSQ Architects and have been included in multiple presentations to town officials over the past two years.