It appears the Newtown Board of Finance is poised to consider adding $400,000 to the 2014-15 budget proposal to boost the town’s self-insured employee benefit fund balance, but will also consider new allocations to bump up senior tax relief and road repair programs as well. And some officials believe it can be done while preserving a flat or slightly lower spending plan for local taxpayers. First Selectman Pat Llodra told The Bee March 12 that Finance Director Robert Tait had prepared a “what if” spreadsheet that factored in new revenue, and that the document specifically referenced using that revenue to offset added underwriting for the self-insurance fund, senior tax program, and capital roads budget lines. The finance board was expected to deliberate those ideas and pass a final budget proposal to the Legislative Council March 13, after the newspaper’s print edition went to press.
If it is recommended by the Board of Finance and approved by the Legislative Council as part of an overall budget request, a $400,000 allocation to Newtown’s self-insured employee medical benefit fund would represent a substantial increase beyond the four percent bump already factored into the spending plan currently being deliberated. On March 6, the finance board heard from Mark Mattioli, chair of the local Employee Medical Benefits Board, and Joe Spurgeon, MHA, representing Milliman, which is among the world’s largest providers of actuarial and related products and services. Mr Spurgeon is a senior health benefits consultant at Milliman consulting on Newtown’s self-insured employee benefit plan. The officials explained that since the town established its own self-funded health plan there has been relatively low inflation in medical costs, but the industry is signaling that low inflation trend is about to end. Mr Mattioli said his board believes the town will be facing at least a six percent increase, which is a significant change from previous years. The board and Finance Director Robert Tait expect that by the end of the current fiscal cycle in June the self-insured fund balance will show $2.3 million in reserves.
The Newtown Police officer who has not yet returned to work since the 2012 school massacre because of post-traumatic stress disorder urged Connecticut lawmakers on Tuesday to expand the state’s workers’ compensation law to cover the condition. Thomas Bean, a 38-year-old married father of two, said he’s unable to return to his law enforcement career and faces an uncertain financial future. He told members of the General Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee on March 11 that he has experienced depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts since responding to the December 14, 2012, mass shooting, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead. Bean is receiving about half of his base pay through Newtown’s long-term disability insurance plan, but that policy is due to end in June 2015. If he were receiving worker’s compensation benefits for his PTSD, Bean would get more than 66 percent of his net pay, including an average of overtime pay, tax-free. There are two bills moving through the legislature this session that would require worker’s compensation coverage for mental trauma in the wake of intentional violent events such as 12/14.
The Newtown Lions Club Foundation has formally announced it has ceased directly administering benefits to providers and individuals through a fund established following the 12/14 tragedy. Peter McNulty, president of the Newtown Lions Club, said in a release, “Our original plan estimated that we would need to serve about 100 individuals for approximately 10 years. During the past 14 months we have provided benefits to over 250 individuals and expended over $350,000." The demand on the club has become overwhelming, Mr McNulty said. As a result the local Lions Club has sought other means to continue to provide support to the community. By joining forces with others, "we bring all of the organizations' strengths together to provide financial support in the most efficient way." The Lions will continue fundraising for 12/14 relief, including a golf tournament that is scheduled for late June.
Riding 400 miles from Newtown, 26 bicyclists hoping to change the nation’s gun laws faced some strong headwinds on their way to Washington, D.C. When they reached the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, they faced even more — of the political kind.It’s been nearly a year since a bill that would increase FBI background checks on gun buyers failed to clear a 60-vote threshold in the Senate. The House has not taken up any gun control legislation and doesn’t seem inclined to do so.But for the members of Team 26 and their allies in the Connecticut congressional delegation, things are on track. “Some said the Connecticut effect would not last, and they are right,” said Monte Frank, an experienced cyclist who heads Team 26, a group of activists from Newtown and other towns that have suffered from gun violence. Frank and many of the riders who pedaled through Ridgefield and Greenwich, Harlem, Doylestown, Pa., and Baltimore to reach the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building Tuesday did much the same thing a year ago, wearing the same green and white windbreakers that honor Newtown’s 26 victims of gun violence.
Legislators will get to hear feedback on the rollout of the Common Core Curriculum Wednesday during a public hearing at the State Capitol complex. The noon event is the result of a move by Republican minority legislators to force the reluctant leaders of the Education Committee to hold a hearing on the bill that would put implementation of the state’s new academic standards on hold. Two days before the hearing, 52 people have already submitted testimony, most of whom oppose the new standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 2010. The state’s largest teachers union — the Connecticut Education Association — recently called the state’s roll out of the standards “botched” and “mishandled.” The CEA says a survey of its members shows teachers overwhelmingly want a moratorium on implementation of the standards. Supporters meanwhile have scheduled a press conference before the Wednesday hearing.
Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity (SHOP) has selected Melissa Lopata of Newtown as the marketing coordinator for Sandy Hook Village. Ms Lopata will be introduced at the Sandy Hook Village Action Planning Workshop on Wednesday, March 12. Ms Lopata moved to Newtown in 2011 from Brooklyn and is working as a part-time marketing consultant for Two Coyotes Wilderness School in Newtown. In her new position she will utilize the new Sandy Hook Community Brand Identity Guidelines and tools to create powerful and effective marketing pieces for Sandy Hook Village businesses, and will manage SHOP’s new website and expand the use of social media to help current merchants succeed and to attract new business to the area. She will begin her new post on March 17.
Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. testifying against a bill that he says would erode the Freedom of Information Act.
In testimony delivered in quick succession Monday to two legislative committees, Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, strongly condemned post-Newtown legislation that would restrict public access to 9-1-1 recordings, police photographs and names of witnesses in drug or violent crimes.
“If enacted, this would result in an unprecedented denial of previously available information, with no necessary relation to witnesses being threatened or endangered, and no relation to the security of an investigation,” Williams said. “It is a suppression of information for its own sake.”