School board lays out budget proposal 

Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke, center, presents the Board of Education’s 2018-19 proposed budget Monday night at the board’s offices with the help of Assistant Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini, left, and Business Manager Bernice Rizk. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — School officials presented a 2018-19 budget proposal to the Board of Finance Monday night that would increase spending by less than 1 percent.

The Board of Education’s proposed budget is roughly $62.16 million, an increase of $482,567, or 0.78 percent, over current school spending.

Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said the board crafts a budget based on student needs.

“Our budget is to support what students need in our classrooms,” Locke said.

The main drivers behind the increase are contractual salary increases and special education costs.

Salaries are increasing an average of 2.5 percent, which translates into a $784,015 increase.

Locke pointed out that the district employs nearly 600 people.

Locke said the number of special education students is increasing as are the in-district and out-of-district costs associated with educating special education students. The overall increase is expected to be $313,231.

The increases in the budget are offset with some savings.

Locke said the district is expecting to save approximately $300,000 by hiring new teachers to fill vacancies left by older, higher paid teachers who retire or leave the district.

The district is also expecting a decrease of more than $200,000 in health insurance costs. The decrease comes from employees moving to the state’s supplemental retirement plan and the fact employees are on a high deductible health care plan, Locke said.

This is the first time in three years the Board of Education has asked for an increase in its budget. The board presented a flat budget the last two years.

Some Board of Finance members argued the school budget should stay flat again.

Finance board member Andrew Bottinick said he’s not happy that test scores in some of the schools remained stagnant. Bottinick felt putting money toward the schools wouldn’t improve the scores and the school budget should remain flat.

Board of Finance Chairman Dan Sheridan pointed out that when the Board of Education began its deliberations the proposed increase was $1.67 million. He said he’s happy the board was able to reduce its requested increase, but added any increase would raise the minimum budget requirement. Under state law, the Naugatuck school budget can’t be cut from the current level because the borough is an alliance district.

“So once it goes up, it stays up at this level from year to year unless the legislative body changes things or we have a significant reduction of students,” Sheridan said.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess and Sheridan both said there were ways to reduce the proposed increase. Neither cited specific areas that could be reduced.

The finance board agreed to move forward with the proposal as there are still opportunities to make changes before a final budget is adopted. The board will meet again on Monday to discuss and approve the entire budget. The budget is scheduled to go before the Joint Boards of Mayor and Burgesses and Finance on April 23 for approval.