BOE presents $61.3 million budget

NAUGATUCK — After months of crunching numbers, the Board of Education presented a $61.3 million budget request to the Finance Board Tuesday night.

The proposed 2014-15 school budget is an increase of $1.8 million, or 3.07 percent, over the current budget.

James Jordan, chairman of the school board’s finance subcommittee, said the budget is bare-bones and what’s needed to run everything the district currently operates.

“I don’t know how things were handled in years past, but this is not us trying to sell you a car,” Jordan said. “We try to be very transparent. We try to be very upfront about what we do, and we’re very deliberate about our own numbers.”

The largest increase in the budget comes in health insurance, which will increase by $2.27 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

The district is switching health care providers to ConnectiCare. According to officials, if the board stayed with Aetna, Inc., its current insurance provider, the increase would have been over $4 million.

The budget also includes a $655,953 increase for contractual raises for certified staff.

The board tried to offset some of the increased costs by offering an early retirement option to the teachers.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini said the district had 28 teachers retire and of those 27 are eligible for early retirement. Montini said the board will not fill 12.5 of those positions.

Between the retirements and positions lost through attrition, the board expects to save $1.53 million in this upcoming fiscal year.

The board also found savings by moving towards self-funding its workers compensation insurance along with the borough. This change is expected to save the board $148,617 in the upcoming fiscal year.

Jordan said there’s no “fluff” in the budget.

 “The numbers we give to you don’t have fluff because we know you’re going to cut them. The bottom line is that’s not how I operate and that’s not how the members of my subcommittee or Board of Education operates,” Jordan said.

Finance Board member Andrew Bottinick pointed out that if it was not for the increase in insurance, the budget would have decreased.

“You have the good interest of the Naugatuck citizens in your heart. I think you did a good job,” Bottinick said.

Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi echoed Bottinick’s comments, saying she was impressed with how the board balanced unfunded mandates and the needs of students.

“I want to thank the Board of Education for all the time and effort that went into this. This is a significant year with a huge impact from the insurance,” Rossi said. “This is really remarkable work. Thank you for all the time that went into it.”

Not everyone was as pleased with the budget, however. Finance Board member Daniel Sheridan brought up his perennial complaint that the budget does not reflect the decreased student enrollment.

Sheridan pointed out that the district has lost approximately 300 students over the last three year.

Jordan said schools are not variable environments. The decrease in pupils is not going to necessarily mean decreases in cost, he said. He likened it to operating a residential home.

“Four people live in my house. When my kid goes to college, let’s forget the mandate of I have to pay for college, my electricity stays the same, my homeowner’s insurance, my car insurance, all these things stay the same,” Jordan said. “It’s an over simplification of a Board of Education that is infinitely more complex than a home.”

The Joint Boards of the Mayor and Burgesses and Board of Finance will meet on Monday to adopt the municipal and school budgets before sending them off to a public hearing.

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