School board approves $64.4M budget proposal


By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

NAUGATUCK — The Board of Education is seeking a 3.6% increase in education spending from the borough.

The Board of Education this month unanimously approved a $64.4 million school budget proposal for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The proposal is an increase of about $2.3 million, or 3.6%, over the present school budget.

Board of Education Chairman Jeff Litke pointed to health insurance, contractual obligations and pension costs as the main drivers for the increase.

The cost of health care is going up by $853,232 to $12.3 million in the proposed budget.

Contractual salary increases are going up by $671,873. The district’s total cost for salaries overall is $37.1 million, under the budget proposal.

The board’s pension cost is increasing $452,779 to $1.5 million in the proposed budget. Transportation costs are going up by $135,215 to $3.1 million.

“It provides for the needs for our students,” Litke said about the budget proposal. “It covers our increased costs with insurance and contractual obligations.”

The proposal includes increasing the rate for regular daily substitute teachers from $75 to $90 per day and the rate for building substitute teachers from $100 to $120 per day. The budget proposal increases the cost of salaries for substitute teachers by $180,855, or 32.44%, to $738,355.

Business Manager Bernice Rizk said the increase is due to increases in minimum wage and an effort to attract substitute teachers.

The proposed budget creates the equivalent of 13.9 new full-time positions, Rizk said. Out the new positions, the equivalent of 10.9 full-time positions would be paid for with grants.

The spending plan also includes the equivalent of four, new full-time paraeducators because of the growing population of students that require special services. The cost of paraeducators is increasing $241,334, or 12.87%, to $2.1 million.

The four new paraeducator positions aren’t covered by grants. The budget proposal reduces one teacher at Andrew Avenue Elementary School because of class size.

The new positions include a special education teacher, a social worker, a speech pathologist and an assistant principal at Maple Hill Elementary School, which was added this school year with grant money.

The school board’s budget proposal is $570,381 less than the spending plan Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke presented in February.

The largest reduction came in capital projects, where the board reduced $300,000 worth of projects, including $25,000 for gym floor maintenance at Hillside Intermediate School and $60,000 to replace boilers at City Hill Middle School, according to Rizk.

“I feel like this board did an amazing job trimming down my original request and feel like what we’re asking for adequately represents that actual need of what we need in our district,” Locke said. “It’s an honest budget request.”

The school board is scheduled to present its proposed budget to the Board of Finance on March 30. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the meeting is expected to be conducted through a conference call with only a few officials running the meeting in person at Town Hall.