by Andreas Yilma
NAUGATUCK – School officials presented the Board of Education’s $67.4 million 2023-24 budget proposal to the Board of Finance during a hybrid budget workshop on March 27.
NAUGATUCK – Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini held a school budget workshop on March 27 at the Naugatuck Board of Education sitting side-by-side with the Board of Finance, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Melissa Cooney, Business Manager Bernice Rizk and Board of Education President Jeffrey Litke Talked about ,
The spending plan increases the borough’s allocation for schools by $2.9 million, or 4.59%, this fiscal year.
Board of Education Chairman Jeffrey Litke said the main drivers of the budget increase include health insurance costs, transportation and tuition.
Litke said, “The board has worked hard to achieve the funding request that provides for our students and ensures they receive the education and services they deserve and need. “
About $38.2 million will be what the borough will dedicate to schools. The total proposed school operating budget is $79.4 million, which includes approximately $11.9 million in additional grants and supplemental revenue and the state’s share of education costs of approximately $29.2 million.
Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini said it was a higher-than-usual request and was honored, but it was needed. The increase is at least partially due to economic factors as the inflation rate from December 2021 to December 2022 was 8.1%.
Although salaries make up 57% of the school budget, that line item is increasing by only $19,000, or 0.05% to $38.5 million, after school officials reduced 11 full-time positions. Some other drivers of the budget increase included benefits cost increasing $842,464 or 5.87% to $15.1 million, purchased services cost increasing $1.7 million or 20.12% to $10.6 million and supply costs increasing $323,199 or 15.68%. $2.3 million.
Some of the staff reductions include the removal of a library media specialist, a secretary, four classroom teachers and a part-time security staff. Officials originally requested an additional school resource officer for pre-K to grade six schools that would be funded by the school board and the Naugatuck Police Department. But that proposal has been removed from the budget.
Montini said enrollment has remained relatively flat at about 4,320 students. Enrollment trends have allowed school officials to reduce some staff without significantly affecting class sizes.
The school district is adding two new positions, a part-time special education teacher at Hope Brook Elementary School and a part-time speech and language pathologist at the Early Childhood Center funded through an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grant.
The district has 47 more students with individualized education plans, an increase of 6.21% in one year. Montini said school officials are seeing new families moving into the district that already have IEPs as well as identifying at a higher rate.
The borough cannot reduce school spending because Naugatuck is a poor-performing Alliance district, so any increase sets a new bar.
“What the school officials are asking for is money to operate the schools with a very substantial increase in the budget,” he said. “It is not just our budget, it is how we run our schools, provide services and programs. This is how we care for your children, our children, the children of this great city collectively.