Raise follows increase in workload

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NAUGATUCK — The assistant business manager at Naugatuck Public Schools has been given an 18.7 percent salary increase over last year.

Bernice Rizk’s salary went from $61,200 in fiscal year 2014-15 to $72,624 in the 2015-16 fiscal year budget plan, which was adopted Monday night could still face a referendum.

Rizk’s pay increase was recommended by Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke, who gave Rizk far more responsibilities this year, Locke said. Rizk did not ask for a pay increase and was initially uncomfortable with Locke’s recommendation, Locke said.

Rizk started taking on more responsibility when borough Controller and School Business Manager Bob Butler went out on medical leave Aug. 12. At its September meeting, the Board of Education approved Locke’s request to pay Rizk a stipend of $800 per month until Butler returned.

Locke, who started in the district on July 1, 2014, said she was in the midst of setting up her administrative leadership team when Butler went out on leave. She asked Rizk to manage day-to-day operations of the business office and work with the district’s senior leadership team to construct a financial plan for 2015-16.

“So both of those things require an amazing amount of time and talent,” Locke said. “One of the other things I inherited was a business office whose roles and responsibilities weren’t clear to me. I needed someone at Tuttle every day who was in charge of that operation, and I held Bernice accountable for that.”

After Butler returned on Jan. 23, Locke recommended to the Board of Education that it continue to pay Rizk the stipend because she was still overseeing day-to-day operations of the business office and developing a budget. The board approved the request in March and then agreed to give Rizk a higher salary in this year’s budget based upon Locke’s recommendation.

She was also given a 2 percent performance-based salary increase in 2015-16. For the first time, raises for non-union employees are being given based upon performance; each employee is evaluated by his or her supervisor.

Locke defended the pay increase for Rizk, saying she was instrumental in developing a budget that has checks and balances and assures there is no opportunity for misallocation of money. She said it is a budget that shows where every penny is allocated, something the borough did not have in previous years.

Some view Rizk’s increased responsibility and her pay increase as an opportunity for the school district to sever ties with the borough over finances.

In 2010, the school system devised a plan to share services between the borough and the school district to oversee money. Board of Education Chairman Dave Heller and Locke both said shared services are still in place.

“In no way does this affect shared services,” Locke said. “Bob is still at our bi-weekly cabinet meetings, I’m on the phone with him daily. He’s still an integral part of my leadership team. As a senior leader, he cannot do the daily stuff that (Rizk) does. And I needed for the business office to report to one person, not two.”

Butler, who earns $98,500 a year, is officially still responsible for overseeing town and school finances. The organizational chart for the school system’s business office shows Rizk reports to Butler, as do Facilities Engineer Mike Lynch and Kate Murphy, director of food services. Butler had no comment for this article.

Rizk has a master’s of business administration in accounting. The average salary for a person with an MBA in the Greater Waterbury area is $101,870, according to www.mba-today.com, which offers resources and information about MBA programs nationwide.

She also has been presented with the rising star award given by the Connecticut Association of School Business Officials this year. Locke said she nominated Rizk because of her work putting together a fiscally responsible and transparent budget.

Rizk said she is working on getting her school finance official certification.

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