Superintendent presents $66.23M draft budget

NAUGATUCK — Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke last week presented a draft 2019-20 school budget proposal to the Board of Education that would increase the district’s spending by nearly 7 percent.

The draft proposal is $66.23 million, an increase of $4.23 million, or 6.8 percent, over the 2018-19 school budget.

Locke stressed to board members that the proposal is still a work in progress and not intended to be what school officials present to the borough for approval.

“What is in front of you is still a draft. There are still a lot of unknowns,” Locke said.

Those unknowns include how much funding the district will receive from the state and the final cost of large-ticket items, such as insurance.

The largest increase in the proposal is for benefits, which are slated to go up $1.4 million, or 10.18 percent, to $15.35 million. This includes a $452,779, or 43.24 percent, increase in pension costs and a $747,194, or 6.83 percent, hike in workers compensation.

Human Resources Director John Lawlor said those increases would fully fund the pensions and bring the board to where the state recommends for workers compensation funding.

The larger increases also include $1.26 million, or 13.35 percent, more for purchased services, which includes a $434,761, or 14.58 percent, increase for transportation services.

Salaries are set to go up $554,064, or 1.51 percent, to a total of $37.15 million. The overall salary increase includes eight proposed new full-time positions, including a world language teacher and applied education teacher at Naugatuck High School and a math teacher at City Hill Middle School.

The board began its budget deliberations Feb. 7 and will continue at a workshop scheduled for Feb. 21 and subsequent workshops, leading up to its budget presentation to the Board of Finance set for early April.

Both Locke and Board of Education Chairman Dorothy Neth-Kunin said they were happy to be able to keep the school budget flat for a few years before a slight increase in the 2018-19 budget, but this year that would not be possible.

“It was really strategic to come in at a [0 percent increase] for a couple years in a row because we could. If we could bring this budget down to a [0 percent increase], we would again. But I think it is the job of the Board of Education to advocate for what the schools need and what the students need,” Locke said.

“At some point in time you are going to have to ask for money. It just depends on how much we will need at this point when we start to finalize the numbers,” Neth-Kunin added.

Neth-Kunin said the board will work on the budget and hopes to lower the increase but has to contend with contractual increases, department requests and possible changes in state funding.

“We are always concerned about what the state is going to do. It is a crap shoot with the state because you don’t know,” Neth-Kunin said. “The only thing we can do is hope that they at least maintain the same process. But there is always the chance they are going to make changes like any new governor that comes into office.”