The School of the Osage continues to struggle with how to fund its health escrow account as medical claims continue to skyrocket.

The School of the Osage continues to struggle with how to fund its health escrow account as medical claims continue to skyrocket.

Superintendent Dr. Brent Depeé told the board of education Monday night that there is a bit of good news on the health care front as the district has saved about $170,000 in prescription costs to date, with three months remaining in the school year. That savings resulted from a change in the prescription company and co-pay percentage paid by employees.

However, the savings do not begin to offset the increase in medical claims paid by the school, nor do they begin to replenish a dwindling health escrow account. As a result, the board authorized shifting $200,000 to the health escrow account to maintain its solvency.

As of Jan. 31, the health escrow account was about $230,000 compared to $400,000 a year ago.

In the last three years, the board has subsidized the account with upwards of $1 million to keep pace with medical claims.

Depeé told the board that monthly premium income from employees averages $138,000 while claims average between $160,000 and $170,00. Six claims have met the district's $100,000 stop loss limit.

Medical claims last year totaled $875,000, and already are $1.4 million this year.

Depeé said the board might have to raise premiums and consider other options to maintain the escrow account as he anticipates another $230,000 in medical claims in the near future.

Strategic plan

Nearly six weeks into rollout of a five-year strategic plan and "the teams are making good progress," noted Assistant Superintendent Dr. Laura Nelson.

The district launched an ambitious plan in early January, and teams have aggressively pursued short-term goals by using snow days to move forward.

The Celebration Committee has even produced a four-page newsletter entitled Strategic Friday Funbits that will be distributed monthly to faculty and staff. It features strategic plan committee updates and insight, and "shows accountability back to the faculty and staff," Dr. Nelson said.

She anticipates the teams, which are working on seven major goals, will be on track by the end of March.

Heritage Building update

Assistant Superintendent Tony Hermann said the Heritage Building renovation and expansion continues on schedule and on budget despite a spate of cold weather.

School Board member James Edwards said the building is taking shape with more drywall installed and some tiling and painting completed.

School district voters approved a $22 million bond issue last April to renovate and expand the Heritage Building to accommodate students from Mills Elementary School, which will no longer be used for classrooms as of next school year. Part of the bond issue calls for updated security in all school buildings and improvements at the high school and upper elementary.

Hermann said the OHS and OUE projects were budgeted at $350,00, but have increased to $446,000 because of higher costs associated with security and other incidentals.