Naugatuck school budget includes funds for many new positions


NAUGATUCK — The school district is looking to hire over a dozen school positions, partly with grant funding, to keep up with the growing demand for education.

School officials on March 28 presented the Board of Education’s $64.5 million 2022-23 budget proposal to the Board of Finance during a virtual workshop. The spending plan increases the borough’s allocation for schools by $743,433, or 1.17%, over the current fiscal year.

“The continuous improvement in all that we do is paramount to our success and what our students and families deserve,” Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini said.

About $35 million would be what the borough dedicates for schools. The overall proposed school operating budget is $75.8 million, which includes additional grant and supplemental revenue of about $11.2 million and education cost share from the state of about $29 million, according to Montini.

The cost of salaries, which make up 60% of the budget, is driving much of the increase. Salaries are expected to jump $957,658, or 2.5%, to $38.5 million. Montini attributed it to contractual salary increases.

Purchased services, supplies and utilities comprise a combined 17% of the budget. Overall purchased services are expected to increase $337,859, or 3.9%, to $8.8 million. The cost of supplies and utilities is expected to rise $96,501, or 4.9%, to about $2 million.

The benefits portion of the budget is estimated to decrease $640,585, or 4.2%, to $14,345,859.

Christopher Montini. Archive

This is due to a decrease in pension of about $1 million and an increase in health benefits of about $409,983, or 2.7%.

The budget assumes the borough will continue to pay $1.8 million 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 $1.8 million of insurance costs from the school budget to the municipal budget for the current 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 because Naugatuck is an underperforming Alliance District, so any increase sets a new bar.

School officials have six targeted enhancements which include improving expanded services for English learners, expanding some special education programs, improving safe welcoming and responsive school climate, expanded graduation requirements, continuing district wide math enhancements, and continuing to use the additional ESSER funds, Montini said.

Compared to last year, the current year’s school district has seen an increase in 52 students, 18 additional students who are on an Individualized Education Programs, and 66 more EL students, or students who uses another language in addition to or other than English, according to Montini.

The school district is looking to hire three full time EL teachers, funded by the Alliance Grant, an additional special services teacher that would split time between Andrew Avenue and Salem Schools, one math teacher, a special education teacher and three part-time para educators for an expanding program at Hillside Elementary School as well as one school counselor and a full-time health teacher both for Naugatuck High School and funded by the Alliance Grant.

“We have the need based on our enrollment,” Montini said.

School officials are implementing a new math program that was started in some upper grades and will continue with lower grades in the coming years with the start up costs being funded through grant money, Montini said.

The borough school district is looking to use ARP and ESSER II grant funds totaling about $11 million to fund 14 positions which include, 10 class teachers, two information technology technicians, one nurse and a custodial manager.

“We strategized, we met, we worked on this an awful lot but at the end of the day to function and to operate with some of the requirements in class sizes, we needed hire a number of positions utilizing this grant money,” Montini said.

School officials are partnering HVAC specialists and mechanical engineers to improve ventilation and facilities by utilizing that grant funding, according to Montini.

Burgess Robert A. Neth said that concerned parents have approached him regarding the bullying at City Hill Middle School and how the discipline is poor with bullying.

Montini said this issue is not only affecting borough schools but in many other districts.
“We do implement discipline but we also have to teach them, establish relationships and teach them and connect with them in regards what’s appropriate behavior and what is not,” Montini said.

Montini said a lot of the budget is aimed at helping resolve the issue including the addition of two bathroom monitors, an additional security guard and a school resource officer at the middle school.

The Board of Finance agreed to accept the budget proposal as is for now and is scheduled for a final review on April 18.