SANBORN – The Niagara Wheatfield School Board directed the superintendent this week to find out if there is a cheaper way to provide health insurance to employees.

The board agreed unanimously to have acting Superintendent James Knowles conduct a study to determine if the district should remain with the insurance consortium it presently participates in or go with another plan.

Board member Richard Sirianni had attempted to persuade the board to talk with Crown Benefits Group of Niagara Falls – formerly Accardo Agency – about the district’s health insurance needs and figure out ways to save money. He said he was familiar with Crown and thought the company would be able to provide accurate information to the district. Crown also offers its own health insurance consortium, according to its website.

But board President Steve Sabo opposed going with a particular private business, preferring instead that the board direct the district’s business office and human resources staff to do a study and seek information from a number of companies, including Crown. Sirianni said he was not trying to push one company.

District business executive Kerin Dumphrey said the rates paid in 2011 and 2012 are less expensive with the district’s current consortium than in the community. He suggested the board establish a subcommittee to compare all costs and plans, noting the issue is complicated and might involve dealing with various physicians networks.

“It’s not like switching car insurance [companies],” Dumphrey said.

He said the district pays about $6 million a year to the health insurance consortium hosted by the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The district has been a part of that consortium for about 20 years, he noted.

In another matter, Knowles said the board is progressing with its search for a permanent superintendent and encouraged residents to respond to a survey on the Niagara Wheatfield website. Once completed and submitted, each survey goes to a consultant that is assisting with the search.