By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — The Board of Education on March 11 approved a $64.8 million budget proposal for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
The spending plan increases the borough’s allocation for schools by $1.8 million, or 2.98%, over this fiscal year.
The $64.8 million would be what the borough dedicates for schools. The overall proposed 2021-22 school operating budget, which includes additional grant and supplemental revenue, is $75 million, an increase of a little more than $2 million, or about 2.8%.
“So we talk about a budget, but what we’re really talking about are our Naugatuck students and the resources that they require in their journey and in their education to be productive members of the global world,” Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini said as he presented the budget to the school board.
The cost of salaries and benefits, which make up 83% of the school budget, is driving much of the increase. Overall salaries are expected to increase by $593,072, or 1.6%, to $37.5 million. The cost of benefits is expected to go up $977, 213, or 6.5%, to $15.8 million.
The budget proposal includes four new teachers — two of which would be converted from existing reading teaching positions — to work with students who speak English as a second language.
The new English Leaner teachers are in response to a rising number of students who speak English as a second language. The number of English Leaner students in the district has increased from 210 in the 2016-17 school year to 320 this year. The additional teachers would mean each school has at least a part-time English Leaner teacher.
The handful of new positions also include a board certified behavior analyst, a computer technician, custodial manager and a part-time health teacher at Naugatuck High School.
The district contracts for behavior analyst services now. The board would reduce its contracted services and shift the funds to pay for the position.
The health teacher is to meet an increase in state graduation requirements starting with the class of 2023.
The budget proposal is $242,073 less than the spending plan Montini presented to the board in February. Spending was reduced, in part, by paying for the salaries of some of the new positions with grant money instead of the local funds.
The proposal funds the computer technician and custodial manager positions with COVID-19 relief funds. Officials plan to use Alliance Grant money to fund the new English Learner teachers.
The budget assumes the borough will continue to pay $900,000 of the school board’s insurance costs in the municipal budget. If not, the school board would have to take on the cost again, which officials said would increase the budget.
Borough officials moved $900,000 of insurance costs from the school budget to the municipal budget for this fiscal year. The move freed up money for other items in the school budget, while allowing borough officials to limit the increase in school spending to avoid setting a higher minimum school spending requirement. The borough can’t decrease school spending since Naugatuck Public Schools is an Alliance District, so any increase sets a new bar.
Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess, who is a member of the school board, said the borough will continue to pay the $900,000 in the municipal budget.
School officials are scheduled to present their budget proposal to the Board of Finance on March 29.