ShareThis Page

Norwin gets more than $500,000 in health plan reimbursement

Tony LaRussa
| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Norwin School District will likely use a $535,000 reimbursement to help pay for major purchases, build its reserves and make pension contributions, according to school officials.

The district is getting the reimbursement from the Westmoreland County Public Schools Healthcare Consortium because insurance costs during the past several years have been lower than estimated, said John Wilson, Norwin's director of business affairs.

“We (the consortium) ended up having an excess, so we decided to refund it back to the district so they can use it rather than having the consortium just build up a sizable fund balance,” Wilson said.

The 20-member consortium consists of 16 school districts, the Westmoreland County Intermediate Unit and two vocational schools. Norwin pays about $4.5 million a year in health-insurance premiums for about 470 employees, Wilson said.

Matthew Hutcheson, superintendent of Jeannette City Schools and the consortium's chairman, said the combined insurance costs for consortium members have been running lower than projections by the insurer, Highmark.

Consortium members will meet later this month to finalize the increase in premiums for 2014-15, Hutcheson said. The estimate of 5.1 percent is half of the original 10-percent projection, he said.

Wilson said he is still trying to determine how to recommend using the money.

“I'm not 100-percent sure what my recommendation to the school board will be for how we divide the money we receive, but there are some areas I'd like to see addressed,” he said.

Wilson said he would like to see a portion of the money placed in the school district's capital projects fund, which is used for building repairs or to make major purchases of things such as vehicles and technology.

The business manager also will recommend that some of the money be placed in the general fund “to provide a reserve in case our costs are higher than our revenue.”

A third area being considered for the reimbursement is a reserve fund designated to cover impending increases in retirement contributions. The fund currently has about $680,000.

During the past several years, school districts have had to contribute more money to the Public School Employees' Retirement System, or PSERS, which pays for pensions and health insurance for school retirees. The system is underfunded by about $33 billion, according to PSERS officials.

Contributions have gone from 8.65 percent of a district's payroll for 2011-12 to the 21.4 percent for the 2014-15 school year.

Staff Writer Chris Foreman contributed to this report.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.