School business manager sought for Naugatuck schools

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NAUGATUCK — The Board of Education voted to begin the search for a full-time business manager who might replace borough Controller Wayne McAllister as overseer of the school system’s finances.

McAllister stepped in as business manager in the fall of 2009 to help the school system close a budget gap then projected at $2 million. His contract ends in June.

An animated debate preceded the 5-4 vote, which was taken Jan. 13. Those who voted to begin the search mainly argued that the school system, which has more than 500 employees, needed a full-time manager and McAllister’s services were supposed to be temporary.

“Mr. McAllister’s services were just an interim solution,” Chairwoman Kathleen L. Donovan said. “This is nothing new.”

The board was looking at a three-year plan to reorganize the business office and needs a full-time manager for that to happen, Vice Chairwoman Barbara S. Lewis said.

“You should have the leader of that office be there for its reorganization,” Lewis said.

Those who voted in opposition said McAllister was doing a good job and hiring a new business manager should not be a budget priority.

“Why would we add costs to a position that has served us well, especially in light of some of the problems that we’ve had over the past year?” Mayor Robert A. Mezzo, who also serves on the board, said. “Right now the system is working, given the fact that we’ve turned a large operating deficit into a small surplus.”

Despite the projected gap, the school system ended last fiscal year with a surplus of $2,518, partly thanks to McAllister’s oversight, board members said.

Secretary David M. Heller said McAllister should guide the business office reorganization, pointing out that McAllister had been the schools’ business manager before starting as borough controller.

“I think we all feel now that things are on the right track, moving in the right direction,” Heller said.

Beginning a search does not definitively mean that McAllister will be replaced, board members pointed out.

“Who knows?” Donovan said. “Maybe no one will want to come to Naugatuck.”

Donovan, Lewis and board members Rocky Vitale, James Scully and Michelle Kalogrides voted for beginning the search. Mezzo, Heller, James E. Jordan and Mary Catherine DiPerna voted against it.