Funds for more help drive increase in budget request

Naugatuck Public Works Director Jim Stewart, left, presents the department’s 2017-18 budget request to the Board of Finance on Monday at Town Hall. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Public Works Director Jim Stewart is seeking to take a step closer to having a full complement of workers in the department.

Stewart presented a $5.25 million budget request for the 2017-18 fiscal year to the Board of Finance on Monday night. The request for the department represents an increase of about $316,000, or roughly 6.4 percent, over the current budget.

The largest increase is $100,231 in payroll. Stewart said the increase is a combination of contractual wage increases and the replacement of one position that has been unfunded. A new employee would cost about $57,000, he said.

The department lost a number of workers to early retirements in 2014 when the borough privatized its trash collection.

Stewart said the borough added funding for a position in the current budget, but the department is still three positions short of having a full complement of 29 employees.

The staff shortage has led to the department not being able to do all the work it wants to in the borough, Stewart said.

One of the areas that is lacking is repairs to the borough’s infrastructure, which is in poor shape, he said.

“Every time we pave a road we try to repair all the infrastructure. What we are finding is we have a crew that works pretty much full time to complete those roads. At the same time the rest of the town is falling apart. There are numerous emergency issues, numerous repairs we are called on to deal with that, for the most part, we have to just cover up with asphalt and hope it lasts until we get there another day,” Stewart said.

With another position filled, Stewart said, the crew can split into two groups, with one focusing on paving and the other on repairs.

The proposed budget also seeks about $49,000 more in part-time seasonal help, bringing the total to $232,283.

The increase is due to an increase in the minimum wage, additional staff for programs at the former armory building, and more lifeguards at the Naugatuck High School pool for public swim.

Recreation Director Kim Eyre said the additional life guards will allow the pool to be open to the public from 1 until 3 p.m. throughout the summer.

The borough is working toward opening the former U.S. Army National Guard Armory, located adjacent to the high school at 607 Rubber Ave., to the public.

The department already has plans for programs at the armory, Eyre said, including yoga, basketball, movie nights, and youth and family events.

Rather than hiring more summer help, Board of Finance Chairwoman Diane Scinto asked if employees could adjust their hours to cover what needs to be done.

“I think that is a great idea and I think that is what the whole armory thing was about. My question is can we adjust somebody’s hours,” Scinto said.

Eyre said some hours have already been adjusted to cover some events, but the programs at the armory will need even more people.

Board of Finance Vice Chairman Andrew Bottinick and board member Dan Sheridan asked the department to provide a full cost of what it would take to repair the armory and host programs.

The finance board ultimately trimmed about $26,000 from the proposed public works budget, reducing the increase to about $290,000, or about 6 percent. The reductions came from various areas in the spending plan.

The board gave its tentative approval to the budget. Officials will continue budget deliberations over the next few weeks.

A public hearing on the full municipal and Board of Education budgets will be held on May 1, and the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses will vote on adopting the budget on May 4.