Stop Norcross from Bleeding our School & Municipal Budgets

Stop Norcross from Bleeding our School & Municipal Budgets

March 6, 2022
Petition to
New Jersey State Comptroller
Signatures: 38Next Goal: 50
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Why this petition matters

Started by Mario De Santis

As the pandemic disrupted the lives of families across the country, many turned to their public schools for critical sources of support. The pandemic caused financial instability, increased food insecurity, and exacerbated educational inequities that existed well before the pandemic.

​With little time to prepare, teachers responded to these crises with urgency. With just a few days' notice, they transformed curricula into online formats, conducted well checks, made at-home visits, expanded families' technological infrastructure, held collections for families in need, and implemented meal programs.

No federal agency did this. No state agency did this. Our ground-zero, frontline teachers were able to solve these issues because they are the professionals. Despite these sacrifices, teachers in Collingswood, New Jersey are expressing concerns which administration says are bound by the district's budget, but there may be a potential for huge savings the district may be neglecting. 

On March 15, 2021, Collingswood Board of Education made explicitly clear one area that undermines its budget: “Many [school districts] are increase in their health care costs, which may result in cuts to critical programs, services and staff in order to balance their budgets.” 

The Board would be remiss if it were to overlook the waste other districts incurred due to their membership in the Norcross insurance brokerage, Conner Strong & Buckelew – the insurance brokerage that manages our district’s health insurance benefits.

This is not speculative. The New Jersey Comptroller – the neutral state office responsible for auditing government finances – has published an exhaustive number of audits which highlight waste by school districts whose health insurance benefits are managed by the Norcross brokerage. This year, the Comptroller published an audit which found that Pennsauken Public Schools paid $1.6 million more for insurance premiums through the brokerage than if they had purchased benefits through the state plan: “the insurance brokerage...erred in its analysis of health insurance plans for Pennsauken Public Schools employees, costing the district $1.6 million in potential savings.” (1)

To provide more examples, Gloucester Township saved $5,072,059.61 upon leaving the fund and entering the state plan. Pleasantville saved $4,631,674.32. Marlboro saved $3,112,229.00. (2) One township, having switched to the state plan, reported that it “was able to hire seven additional [staff] and avoid planned layoffs that would have been necessary had the township not made the switch. (3)

Our contract with Conner Strong includes the potential for the brokerage and its employees to earn “incentives and rewards, such as trips, prizes, and entertainment” (1) from the insurance companies whose products the brokerage sells – the same language found the in the audited Pennsauken contract. The Comptroller found this provision concerning for obvious reasons: “Such provisions could entice health insurance brokers to recommend more expensive plans.”

The most salient theme in these audits is that school districts fail to take the initiative to fully evaluate healthcare costs: “School districts should do their due diligence and not rely solely on the advice of brokers who might have a financial interest in recommending a costly insurance plan” (Yvonne Tierney, Comptroller audit division director).

If the potential exists to avoid cuts to programs beloved by our students and the community, I believe we have an economic and moral obligation to Collingswood taxpayers, its teachers, and its students to consider the possibility of expanding our budget in this manner.

Because our school business administrator has held several official positions within the school health insurance fund managed by the Norcross brokerage, perhaps an external, official review by the New Jersey Comptroller would be most appropriate.


Mario De Santis



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Signatures: 38Next Goal: 50
Support now

Decision Makers

  • New Jersey State Comptroller