The town is looking for ways to cut its estimated $8.3 million worker's compensation liability, including the possible option of using a managed-care program for claimants.

The Board of Finance on Tuesday heard a report from the town's consultant, Don Perno, on its workers' compensation claims.

Reducing costs is a two-pronged attack, Perno said, and includes a review of all town and school departments for safety issues to create a risk assessment report.

"That will give you a benchmark of where you are right now," Perno said, and let the town know what training is needed to prevent accidents and injuries.

But managed care will also help reduce costs, he said. Currently, when an employee is injured on the job, they are only required to see a "town" doctor for the first visit. They can go to whomever they wish for all subsequent visits and rehabilitation.

This, Perno said, can lead to employees not going to the proper professional for the right type of care and treatment.

"There has been some resistance due to some of the unions," he said, but added that according to the state Workers' Compensation Commission, municipalities may institute managed-care programs without reopening or renegotiating union contracts. "It supersedes any contract language," Perno said.

About 90 percent of the public entities Perno's company PMA Management Corp. manages are in managed-care programs, he said.

"It's a nice first step to controlling the medical costs," he said, and would take about two months to implement.

With several town union contracts still not settled, board Vice Chairman Robert Bellitto Jr. asked when the best time is to implement such a plan.

"I'll defer to the town," Perno said. "In the past the thinking has been to wait until all the contracts are settled and in place."

As for assessment and training, town Human Resources Director Mary Carroll Mirylees said she has had $10,000 budgeted for the each of the last two years, but it is not enough. This year, she said, she will double her request to $20,000.

Finance board member Kevin Kiley said the savings that result from better or increased training might not be seen right away. "You're not going to see savings in the premium but rather reductions in medical costs over time," he said. Right now, Kiley said, the amount of training being done is "putting out fires, we aren't addressing the issue, the whole problem."

Mirylees said there was a lot of training done with Board of Education custodians. "They do feel it made a big difference," she said.

The HR head said training has to be ongoing. "People gradually step back into all of the habits they had before," Mirylees said. "It's like cleaning a teenager's room."