NAUGATUCK — Republican burgess and board of education candidates vowed if elected, to bridge a communication gap between Naugatuck’s two most influential boards.
Republican candidates announced their platform for the upcoming election during a press conference Wednesday night. The focus of which centers on improving communication between the school board and the Board of Mayor and Burgesses, in order for the two boards to work better together to improve education in the borough.
“We feel strongly communication in the past has been lacking,” former mayor and burgess candidate Ron San Angelo said.
San Angelo said the Republican candidates strongly believe the most important mission of borough officials is to provide a quality education at a price citizens can afford.
In the past, the two boards have not had the best of rapports, especially when it comes to finances. At the height of the school board’s financial troubles, borough Controller Wayne McAllister was appointed as the board’s business manager. Officials credit McAllister with stabilizing the school budget.
The candidates didn’t discuss the past though, saying they’d rather focus on the future.
“What we’re trying to do is forget about the past and look to the future,” San Angelo said.
With an eye on the future, the Republican candidates unveiled a four-point platform they feel will help to rebuild trust between the two boards.
The first point of that plan is open communication between the two boards. Republicans promised that, if elected, they will share all school budget information in a timely manner and work together to ensure everyone understands the fiscal constraints facing the town and the needs of the school board.
“We believe, as a party, that communication is essential for good government,” said Catherine Ernsky, a candidate for burgess.
David Heller, who is seeking re-election to the school board, said the situation has improved recently.
“But,” he added, “there’s still a long way to go.”
Republicans also said they will push for the formation of a new school board finance committee.
The school board currently has a finance committee. However, the candidates vowed to support a new, expanded finance committee that will seek out and gather input from individuals in the borough with financial and accounting experience. These individuals, according to Republicans, would be de facto members of the committee and would be asked to participate in budgetary and financial discussions to assist the committee and advise it.
Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi, who’s seeking re-election as a burgess, said such an expanded committee would enable officials to use the best asset in the community-its residents.
The third and fourth points of the platform deal with clear explanations of budgetary issues.
If elected, Republicans said they will push for school board members to explain to the mayor and burgesses any significant transfers within the school budget.
“We currently don’t know where the changes are (in the school budget),” said Burgess Robert Neth, who is the liaison to the borough’s finance board.
San Angelo said a school budget transfer is more than a shift of money. It’s a shift in philosophy, he felt, because the school board dedicated money to certain accounts for a reason.
“It’s not just a dollar amount. It’s a change of philosophy,” San Angelo
On the flip side, they also promised that, if elected, they will advocate for the Board of Mayor and Burgesses to consider all line items in the school budget and fully explain to school board members and the public how and why they reached the final figures.
San Angelo explained the Republican candidates came together to send a clear message to the public that they are a team willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
“We hope the citizens of Naugatuck look at us as a team working on their behalf,” he said.
Although the Republicans presented the platform they said they would invite local Democrats to get behind it as well.
“For too long it’s been an us versus them mentality,” Rossi said.
The town needs to focus as “us,” Rossi said, for the well being of borough children.