Board to hold Q&A on school budget

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NAUGATUCK — For the first time in anyone’s memory, the Board of Education will hold a hearing and question-and-answer session for the public on its proposed budget for the 2015-16 school year.

The board is offering two opportunities for people to attend. The first will be at 6 p.m. on April 30, at Naugatuck High School. The next will be at 8 a.m. the following morning at the high school. The public will also be given a tour of the school so residents can see what has been done in the ongoing $81 million renovation project. Students will guide tours for people who wish to see the progress of the work.

“There are a lot of people who said they can’t wait to see the new high school, so we figured this was a great opportunity to see it and ask any questions they may have about the budget at the same time,” Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said.

The tours will be immediately followed by a presentation and Q&A on the proposed school budget. People who want to attend are asked to RSVP on the school system’s website, www.naugatuck.k12.ct.us. Click on the “News and Events” tab to find the RSVP form.

The public usually has an opportunity to speak about school budget proposals as part of the Board of Finance’s hearing on the overall budget, which includes the school department. Several other communities have separate hearings about school budget plans, but Naugatuck usually does not.

Locke, who was hired on July 1 from New Britain, where she served as assistant superintendent, said this is part of her overall plan to improve communication between the public and the school system.

Last year’s proposed school and municipal budgets failed at two referendums before those who petitioned to send it to a public vote decided not to force a third. School board officials vowed at the time to better inform the public about spending proposals.

Locke said she has already reviewed the budget thoroughly with the borough’s Parent School Council.

“They said, ‘If people could hear all of this it might help them better understand it,’” she said. “So I have to credit them for putting this idea in my mind.”

David Heller, Board of Education chairman, said the board wants the public to have as much information as possible about what is being requested and why.

The school board is requesting $62.5 million from the borough, an increase of nearly $1.6 million or roughly 2.6 percent over the current allocation. The total proposed operating budget, which includes grant revenue and supplemental income, is $69.2 million.

The plan would eliminate 21 full-time-equivalent positions. Those include one administrator, 6.6 teachers, five paraprofessionals, 1.5 instructional aides, 0.1 psychologists, 3.5 secretaries, one social worker assistant, 0.5 custodians and 1.5 security personnel.