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Update: Student Accident Insurance Extended Through July

A resolution that would have provided the insurance failed at the Fort Lee BOE’s meeting Tuesday, when two board members abstained and one voted against it. The district's business administrator subsequently got it extended for a month.

The president of the said earlier this week that a special meeting may be necessary if the school district wants to have a broker of record and, more importantly, student accident insurance for the 2012-2013 school year, after the board failed to pass a pair of finance resolutions at its meeting Tuesday.

But business administrator Cheryl Balletto said that when the board did not renew the student accident insurance, she called the district’s broker and got it extended through July 31.

“I confirmed it this morning with [the broker], and it is extended through July 31,” Balletto told Patch Friday.

In order for the insurance to be extended beyond July 31, it will have to be approved by the board.

“I’m hoping that on July 9 the board will approve our new policy,” Balletto said.

Appointment of BGIA as broker of record for 2012-2013 at a fee of $110,000 and student accident insurance with Bollinger, which would have come at a cost of $52,207 for the 2012-2013 school year were on the agenda, but the issue wasn’t necessarily the cost to the district for three board members, one of whom voted no and two of whom abstained. Two board members were also not in attendance at at .

“They voted no because people raised the question ‘Was it bid out?’” said school board president Arthur Levine the day after the meeting. “They voted no simply because of the public.”

He added, “An abstention is not a vote so it’s not a majority.”

Earlier in the meeting Fort Lee resident David Sarnoff did indeed raise such a question, asking if the appointment of a broker of record had been put out to bid.

“If all the employees are in the state plan, are there other options to broker the insurance?” Sarnoff asked. “Could we share services with other school districts if everybody’s in the state plan? Because it doesn’t seem like it would be that complicated.”

Business Administrator Cheryl Balletto explained that there are specific companies that typically work with schools, doing things like handling benefits, acting as brokers for property insurance, and so on.

“Yes, we can go out for [bids], but we also have to do it in a timely fashion,” Balletto said.

Sarnoff, who accepted Balletto’s explanation, later said he was only asking about the appointment of BGIA as broker of record.

But the board voted the two finance resolutions together—BGIA and Bollinger for student accident insurance—and therefore passed neither.

When it became apparent that the resolutions might fail because of abstentions and the one “no” vote, Balletto warned the board, “You won’t have a broker of record, and you won’t have student accident insurance.”

Board vice president Linda McCue said at Tuesday’s meeting that she didn’t understand what the problem was, and that the issue should have been raised in the private session that preceded the public discussion and ultimately the vote.

“All of a sudden it’s an issue, and everyone’s abstaining or voting no,” McCue said. “Why wasn’t this brought up?”

Speaking Wednesday morning, Levine echoed McCue’s sentiments.

“These questions should be brought up in private session,” Levine said. “And it wasn’t raised; nobody raised it.”

He added, “We get the agenda a little before the public does, the agenda’s put out and if you have any question, raise it.”

He said such contracts are thoroughly vetted by Balletto, and that the premiums haven’t gone up in two years.

As for the ramifications of not passing the resolution providing student accident insurance, Levine said it meant at the time that as of July 1, there would be none, and that he might have to call a special meeting specifically to vote on the matter again.

Until that happens, Levine said, “I’m not going to allow camp.”

“We can’t allow any children in the camps on our grounds,” he said. “We’re not a rubber stamp for Cheryl, but trust me, if there is an issue with any of those contracts, it’s discussed.”

However, given Balletto's update, that will not be necessary, at least for now.

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Lisa Salvato June 28, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Yoon and Park, Thank you for putting the students in jeopardy of not having a summer camp because you are always absent from the meetings and decided to abstain without knowing what you vote would mean.
Tracy June 28, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Thanks Erik! This should be remedied at the next mtg. I highly doubt the ROI in cost savings will be enough to justify this but ? The problem that I observe meeting after meeting is that residents ask valid questions and there are a few BOE members that take it at face value (most have a greater understanding) and do not ask what the process is and why that process exists. More often than not, its the process that can answer the questions that the public has (this insurance, the furniture in the central office, bidding contracts and purchasing agreements). There are limits or ranges that are set by the state, and decisions must fall within those parameters. Basically the agenda comes out and the public has access to the decision making at its final stage, their questions are valid and needed, its up to the members to have a working knowledge of the process that helps it get to the final stages OR understand enough to bring the question to the part of the decisions making process where it belongs. Often times, just ask the BA or Superintendent or lawyer and they will know. What we saw here was lack of understanding, and attempt to be transparent and appease the audience. The safety of our children is far more important than appeasing any adult in this community. This particular decision has great consequence for our kids, and all that had to be done is ask about the process, and perhaps adopt it as a project for next year since premiums did not change.
Wonk June 28, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I am confused, they had 4 votes to approve this and 2 against: why did it not pass? Also, why does Levine want to shut down the summer camps? Isn't that separate?
Tracy June 28, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Good questions.
William Mays June 28, 2012 at 11:07 PM
You call that a summer camp? I tried that out because you know, its only $25, and I really didn't like seeing the way that its conducted. Its pretty much kids getting fried outside. I signed them up for D-E's summer camp, it's much better.
Paul Umrichin June 29, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Nothing is going to happen to the camp. I have already looked into it since I have kids attending... The Borough of Fort Lee has its own insurance for the camp which covers the children in case of accidents. The BOE insurance doesn't cover this anyway. If there was a summer school program for any of the schools then there would be an issue.
Tracy June 29, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Hi Paul! Thanks for looking into that. There are school programs running throughout the summer, so its important. It still needs to be corrected.
Eric Wanker June 29, 2012 at 04:53 AM
Brilliant observation.
Tom Trioncone June 29, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Paul, good information.
Tracy June 30, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Thank you!!!
clare speeck July 01, 2012 at 09:33 PM
PLEASE EXPLAIN: Why is the Board of Education paying an insurance broker's fee of $110.000.00 and getting a $52,207.00 policy? This seems to be based on the same purpose as never posting the Supt. vacancy, at no cost, on the Schools Employment listings and paying $9,500.00 to a search firm when there is no intention of considering other candidates. Are there some inappropriate relationships here?

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