Finance board moves ahead with school budget proposal

Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke, right, presents the Board of Education’s 2019-20 budget request to the Board of Finance April 1 as Business Manager Bernice Rizk, left, and Assistant Superintendent Christopher Montini look on. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The Board of Finance opted last week to move a roughly $64.06 million school budget proposal for the 2019-20 fiscal year forward for a final review.

The budget proposal increases Board of Education spending by $2.06 million, or 3.33 percent, over the current school budget.

As she presented the budget request to the finance board April 1, Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said the proposal represents what the students need to be successful.

Locke pointed out that the student population in Naugatuck has remained nearly flat over the past few years, while other school districts have seen a decrease in enrollment. According to information provided by Locke, Naugatuck spends $15,094 per pupil, which is more than $3,000 less than the state average.

Locke said the main drivers behind the increase are health insurance costs, which are increasing by about $687,000, and transportation and special education costs, which are going up nearly $780,000.

The proposal adds a world language teacher and an applied education teacher at Naugatuck High School to help students meet the new credit requirements for graduation implemented by the state.

The request also includes $45,000 for a certified nursing assistant program at the high school. The program will be run in collaboration with Naugatuck Valley Community College, and students that successfully complete the program can earn a CNA certificate.

The $64.06 million proposal is about $210,000 less than the one Board of Education approved in March. Since then, the cost of insurance was reduced by $171,741 after the school board received a new quote.

The Board of Finance last week removed $36,435 from the proposal. The money was earmarked to pay for teacher pensions, in case the state decides to shift some of the burden of paying teacher pensions onto municipalities.

Board of Finance Chairman Dan Sheridan felt it’s unlikely the state’s going to do that this year.

The finance board voted to send the budget request to a final review. The board is scheduled go over the school budget, as well as all the other departments’ requests, on Monday.

Finance board member Sara Euvino was the only one to vote against the motion. She said she believed the nearly $540,000 budgeted for capital projects shouldn’t be part of the school’s operating budget.

Sheridan said there are items the board can cut out of the budget, but wanted to wait and get as many final numbers as possible before making any final decision.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said he believed there is about $1 million the borough can move from the Board of Education’s budget to the municipal budget.

Hess did not go into detail about which items the borough could take on, saying that he would discuss it further when the Joint Boards of Mayor and Burgesses and Finance review the budget.

While moving the money wouldn’t lower the borough’s overall budget, it would lower the Board of Education’s budget increase. State law requires municipalities to spend at least as much on education from one year to the next, with a few exceptions for things like declining enrollment.

The Joint Boards of Mayor and Burgesses and Finance will approve a budget proposal later this month to send to a public hearing in May.