Mt. Lebanon School District faces higher insurance costs

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Mt. Lebanon School District faces paying an additional $100,000 for insurance in the coming academic year.

While part of the increase is attributable to market conditions, Jeff Kelly of Kelly Insurance Group told the school board Monday that the district had significant workers' compensation claims from 2009 to 2011.

"Those were two extraordinarily bad years, if I can be candid," Mr. Kelly told the board.

The custodial staff has accounted for a large number of claims, he said, and there has been "a surprising increase in claims for teacher's aides," especially those who work with special needs students.

Newly quoted rates add up to about $585,000 for coverage including property, liability and worker's workers' compensation, Mr. Kelly said. Workers' compensation rates for 2009 to 2011 are taken into account when calculating the insurance premium for 2013-14. By 2015-16, those years no longer will be taken into consideration for the rates.

Janice Klein, district director of business, said money has been budgeted toward a portion of the insurance premium increase and spending adjustments in other budget categories can be made to cover the remainder.

The district participates in the Pennsylvania School Boards Association's Insurance Trust as a cost-saving measure. Mr. Kelly said other quotes received by his company were higher than those offered through the PSBA.

In other business Monday:

• The board discussed recent change orders for the $109 million high school renovation project.

On the agenda for approval at next week's board meeting are 29 items that have been reviewed by the district administration, architect Celli-Flynn Brennan and construction manager P.J. Dick Inc. All but one of the items represent payments to contractors for work performed beyond the project's specifications.

The current list of change orders represents some $211,000 in payments.

The district built a contingency into the overall project cost. Tom Berkebile of P.J. Dick said Monday that assuming the latest change orders are approved, the district will have spent about 28 percent of the contingency, while the project was about 37 percent complete from a construction cost perspective as of the end of April.

The largest expenditure on the current list is $85,495 to Nello Construction to add storm piping at the west end of the new athletic building. That figure is on a not-to-exceed basis and could be adjusted downward.

"We think the right number is good bit smaller than that number," said Thomas Cherubini Celli, principal of Celli-Flynn.

Elaine Cappucci, school board president, has explained that the board opted to approve the project's change orders on an item-by-item basis as a measure of transparency for the public.

In response to an audience member's question Monday, she explained that the project managers settle many proposed change orders ahead of time.

"There are hundreds of them," she said. "They just don't come before the board."

• The board plans to vote next week on a new contract with EQT Corp. that calls for lower rates for natural gas during the next three years. The measure is expected to save the district about $34,000 for 2013-14.

education - neigh_south

Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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