School board backs $64.27M budget proposal

NAUGATUCK — The Board of Education will present a 2019-20 budget proposal to borough officials that increases school spending by a little more than $2 million.

The board last week voted 7 to 2 to adopt a roughly $64.27 million proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. The board is scheduled to present its request to the Board of Finance on April 1.

The proposed budget is an increase of $2.27 million, or 3.68 percent, over the present school budget.

Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said the spending plan reflects what the district and students need to be successful.

“My job is to advocate and run the best possible schools. If we needed less, I would ask for less. This is what we need. This is what our kids deserve,” Locke said.

Not everyone was in favor of the budget, however. School board members Glenn Connan and Diana Malone voted against it.

Connan felt more potential reductions could be made in the budget. He said he wanted to see some portions of the budget adjusted.

“The main reason I did not vote in favor was I could not support a 3.68 percent increase that included a behavioral interventionist position for students who have in-school suspensions. I would rather invest our limited resources to support our more responsible students who sometimes get shortchanged,” Connan said

The cost of health benefits and salaries are among the largest drivers for the spending increase in the budget proposal.

The cost of health benefits is set to increase by $560,243, or 4.9 percent, to $12 million. Teachers’ salaries are projected to go up $441,509, or 1.83 percent, to $24.5 million.

The increase in salaries includes contractual raises as well as the hiring of the equivalent of 5.4 new positions, including a world language teacher at Naugatuck High School and a math teacher at City Hill Middle School.

The district’s transportation costs are also going up due to contractual increases and an increase in the cost of transporting students with disabilities. The transportation budget is set to increase by $334,761, or 10.25 percent, to $3.6 million.

The overall increase was partially offset by some reductions throughout the budget, including the reduction of one full-time employee from administrative technology for a savings of $45,502.

Board of Education Chairman Dorothy Neth-Kunin said the board worked for a long time crafting a budget it felt met the needs of the students.

“We scrutinized every line item. We discussed what we can do, what we can’t do, what we can live with, and what we can’t live without,” Neth-Kunin said.

While she hopes the proposal will be accepted as is, Neth-Kunin said the board knows it may be trimmed down by the Board of Finance next month.

“When the Board of Finance starts to review the budget, it is possible they may come back and cut it some more. Then we will have to dig in and see where else we can go,” Neth-Kunin said.