By James A. Leahy, Vice Chairman – Orange Board of Finance
Since my last article (March 10, 2017, Orange Town News), the Orange Board of Finance has met four times and is working diligently with town leaders to develop a budget that minimizes property tax increases. We are doing our best and have make progress. But if State budget proposals are adopted as they stand now, the news is still not good for Orange taxpayers.
The purpose of this article is five-fold:
- Provide background context information
- Deliver an update on budget component & state aid data
- Detail the highlights of the budget development process,
- Summarize the budget increase and the major drivers of that increase, and
- Communicate a set of “Did You Know” statements to Orange taxpayers as they enter the assessment & voting phase of the Budget process.
The budget is composed of three expense components: Town Services, Orange Elementary Schools (Orange BOE), and Amity Regional Schools. We receive revenues from local property taxes, fees, and State government aid. With requests for additional funding for schools and towns services combined with major cuts in state aid, we are facing a budget gap. An additional factor is Governor Malloy’s proposed transfer of a major portion of teacher pension payments to towns. Orange’s share of this proposal amounts to $1.9 million in 2018 and over $2.3 million in 2019.
Current Budget & State Aid Data
NOTE: All data in this article is as of March 30:
- Town of Orange, $23,981,517, an increase of $327,279
- Orange Public Schools $20,150,063, an increase of $150,000
- Amity Regional Schools $24,017,483, an increase of $1,411,745
- Total Requests: 68,148,063, an increase of $1,889,024
- State Aid Revenue: $3,927,045, a decrease of $830,453
Budget Development Highlights
We are still working to do more with less while doing as little harm as possible to the important programs and projects that our community needs. Below are highlights of the Board of Finance actions taken since the last article and some important observations:
- Cut Town Services by more than $1,200,000 million
- Planned for an 83% reduction in capital items requested
- Reduced the Orange BOE budget to a 0.75% increase
- Amity is requesting an increase of 1.26% but when you compare actual monies spent to the requested budget, it is an increase of over 4%.
- The Orange Board of finance has voted unanimously to limit the Amity budget increase to 0.75% but the Amity Board of Education has voted to keep the increase as originally requested.
- The final decision on the Amity budget is up to voting taxpayers on May 3
- Non-Tax Revenue is down 25% compared to the prior year, a decrease of nearly $1,200,000 which is primarily caused by State changes to the Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) funding
- Used the Amity Surplus of $366,058 refunded to the Town from FY 15-16 to reduce the impact on Orange taxpayers
- Raised the Motor Vehicle tax back to 32 mills from 29.3 resulting in about a $400,000 positive impact to the budget
Drivers of the Budget & Tax Increase
In light of the current proposed budget, the taxpayers now face a 3.48% increase, an average increase of $279 to the Orange taxpayer. If the Teacher’s Pension funding were to be added in, it would be a 6.64% increase, an average increase of $532 to the taxpayer.
DRIVERS of the TAX INCREASE: Here is the breakdown of the impact from each component of 3.48% tax increase including non-tax revenue funding:
- Town Services: 0%
- Orange BOE: 5%
- Amity: 9%
- Non-Tax Revenue decline: 5%
If you are unhappy with the State cuts to education and municipal aid or the bill that Orange may be receiving for $1.9 million in teacher pension payments, contact your State Representatives. You can also contact your State Senator who is chair of the appropriations committee and whose party is in the majority.
Did You Know ….
Below is a list of observations and key dates for budget votes that will occur in the April & May timeframe. I suggest you post this on your refrigerator:
- That Orange Board of Finance has already cut over $3,000,000 out of budget requests from Town departments and achieved the goal of reducing Orange BOE increase to 0.75% increase;
- That without the ECS revenue shortfall from the state, the spending increase from all budgets (Town, Orange BOE, Amity) would have been $1,889,024, a 2.77% increase, well within historical budget norms;
- That the VOTEs on the Amity Budget and the Town of Orange Budget (which includes the Amity budget) are separate referendum & on different dates;
- That the AMITY VOTE is May 3rd. The vote on the Amity budget occurs prior to the vote on the Town budget which will occur at a mid-late May, exact date TBD by the Board of Selectmen;
- That the Orange BOF does NOT support the Amity budget increase since it did not achieve the 0.75% increase passed unanimously by the Orange Board of Finance on Feb 3;
- That the Orange BOF requests that you consider this unanimous cross-party Orange BOF position when you vote on the Amity budget on May 3rd;
- That if the Amity budget is passed and the Town or Orange budget is rejected, the only place to cut the Overall budget would be Town services and the Orange BOE, the budget components with the LEAST financial impact on the overall budget increase;
- That the Town Budget Hearing is April 27th 7:30PM at the High Plains Community Center cafeteria where all the budget components get presented and people can ask questions on any component. All Taxpayers are encouraged to attend & participate.
Naturally, the Orange BOF is concerned about the impact a budget like this would have on the taxpayers of our Town. We encourage people to keep up with the facts as things could shift on the path forward. We also encourage people to share this information with your neighbors & friends and make your voices heard to the members of the Orange Board of Finance and to elected officials at State & local governments.