NEW MILFORD -- New Milford educators have received some good news about projected insurance increases for the town and schools for budget year 2011-12.

"The projection at this time is that the insurance increase for both the town and the schools will be slightly under 1 percent," town Finance Director Ray Jankowski recently told the Board of Education's Operations Committee.

"The education side should be flat," he added.

Terry Demattie, the town's insurance consultant, lauded the education board for the "slight benefit plan change" negotiated with the teachers.

In a teacher contract agreement in November, co-payments for specialty physician visits increased from $25 to $35 in the coming year and will rise to $40 in the final year of the contract.

"It used to be, take baby steps when making these changes," Demattie said. "Those times are past."

The Board of Education will hear public comment on the matter Tuesday, Dec. 14, starting at 8 p.m. at its meeting in Sarah Noble Intermediate School's library media center.

While insurance projections for next fiscal year are positive at this time, Demattie noted final projections will be reached in February and actual numbers will come in April, after the schools for 2011-12 budget is settled.

Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote said she will be using the zero percent increase projection in her budget presentation to the Board of Education in January.

By Jankowski's as yet unaudited figures in June 30, 2010, the Internal Service Fund had a balance of $5.7 million.

However, Demattie recommended keeping in mind that premium cost fluctuation is always a possibility and money should not be touched for paying down insurance costs for a given budget season.

She added the time might be right for the town and schools to go out to bid on insurance. With its self-insured plan, the town and schools use Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield as the plan manager.

It has been five years since bids were solicited, Demattie said, and better rates might be received for other providers at this time.