School board OKs budget proposal

NAUGATUCK — After several months of cost-saving efforts, the Board of Education finally adopted a budget proposal Thursday that its members say they can stand behind.

The board unanimously supported a $61.3 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which carries a $1.8 million, or 3.82 percent, increase over the current expenditure. That is far more palatable to most board members than the original proposal, which would have increased spending more than 6 percent and was decried as too high by many members.

The board has reduced the proposed increase by offering an early retirement incentive program to teachers, which is projected to save about $1.5 million, as 28 people are anticipated to accept the offer. It gives a $25,000 lump sum payment to teachers who take the package. May 9 is the final day for people to enroll, and they have seven days to renege on the offer.

Other savings came from switching the health insurance carrier to ConnectiCare; currently Aetna is the insurance carrier. Aetna demanded a far higher premium next year, board members said. The ConnectiCare plan, which still gives employees a high-deductible health savings account, is $2.2 million less than what Aetna was asking.

And the board will save $148,617 by lumping its workers’ compensation insurance with the municipal plan, a self-insured account that board members say comes with slightly more risk but far more projected savings. Board member Jim Jordan, chair of the finance subcommittee, said there are protections in the contract to assure the board doesn’t pay too much if there are a high number of claims.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Chris Montini said that as of Thursday, the net effect of certified teaching position reductions from this year to next will be 20. However, that number could change based upon how many people actually retire and various other factors, he said.

Currently, there are 39 untenured certified staff members who are waiting to see how the budget shakes out because they have been given nonrenewal notices, meaning their positions are in jeopardy for next year.

It is far too early to tell which of those employees will be brought back next year, Montini said.

The early retirement program could have ripple effects in the whole district as teachers could be moved from school to school to fill vacancies.

The school board will meet with the Board of Finance Tuesday in a meeting tentatively scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall to discuss the proposal.

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