School budget shows surplus

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NAUGATUCK — The 2014-15 school budget ended with a $959,000 surplus.

The surplus is 1.57 percent of the 2014-15 $60.9 million school budget.

Board of Education Assistant Business Manager Bernice Rizk reviewed the year-end balance during the board’s Sept. 10 meeting.

The bulk of the surplus, $580,601, comes from a savings in health insurance due to early retirements in the 2013-14 school year, the transfer of retired teachers to the Stirling Insurance plan and a reduction in special education tuition expenses.

The board also had a surplus of $286,219 in salaries due to hiring decisions made following of last year’s budget referendums, and an increase in the amount of teachers’ salaries that were covered by grants.

The board also had a surplus of $68,477 in contract services, $21,524 in capital items, $1,723 in transportation and $497 in supplies.

While the surplus seems like a large number, Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said it means that over 98 percent of the budget was spent exactly how the board said it would be.

School officials are seeking to have some of the surplus set aside into a reserve account.

In 2011, the state passed legislation allowing a school board to create an account to save up to 1 percent of its total budget. One percent of the 2014-15 school budget is about $609,000.

In June, the school board voted to request the Board of Finance set up a reserve account. Board of Finance Chairwoman Diane Scinto said the finance board hasn’t discussed the request, yet.

The current school budget is proposed to increase $770,651, or about 1.24 percent. The school and municipal budgets are facing a second referendum on Sept. 22.

Locke said it is hard to compare last year’s budget with the current proposed budget because they were formed differently. Locke said the proposed 2015-16 budget was built from the ground up by analyzing the needs of each school and assigning related costs.

“Some call this approach ‘zero-based budgeting.’ I refer to it as student-need-based budgeting. The new process has already addressed line items that were previously over allocated,” Locke said.

Locke said the increase in the proposed budget is due to rises in fixed costs.

“With health benefit increases of 13.9 percent and contractual increases of 2 to 3 percent an overall increase in the Board of Education budget of 1.27 percent is both reasonable and fiscally responsible,” Locke said.