Responding to Taxpayer’s Questions
The feedback from the prior two articles in the Orange Town News has been extensive. People have numerous questions & seem to be connecting to the topic of budgeting which clearly impacts the taxes they pay. In my view, this heightened awareness and interest is a healthy & welcome activity that benefits our community. I wish to address four questions that have surfaced.
Question 1: Amity $3 Million Surplus each year from FY 18-21: what is the Cost to Orange Taxpayers?
The 4-year Amity surplus has cost each Orange taxpayer $685. This represents an UNNECCSARY TAX on your wallets. While there are many factors involved, this calculation provides a “101 course” estimate. See chart for analysis done by members of the Orange BOF.
Question 2: What is Latest Information about the Amity budget?
There are now three Amity budgets proposed/supported. On 01-24-22, the initial Proposed Amity budget of 4.92% increase was presented to the Orange BOF. On 02-04-22, the Orange BOF voted unanimously to support a 0.41% budget increase. On 02-28-22, the Amity Finance Committee voted 4-2 to support a 3.99% increase (Bethany & Orange BOF reps voted against). This chart summarizes these budgets and their impacts to Orange & Woodbridge.
(Note: the % impact to the Towns of Orange & Woodbridge are higher than the budget increase due to shift in student population %s and declining “other Revenue” from the prior year.)
Question 3: Why does Amity need such a Large Increase?
That is unclear given the following:
- Overall, 68 fewer students down to 2,164 lowest in 20 years;
- Proposed adding 7.2 staff positions;
- Proposed spending increase of $2,544,901 to $54,243,108, a 92% spending increase;
- If you add this increase ($2,544,901) to the average Amity budget surplus of $2,983,979 million over the past 4 years, the budget request swells to greater than $5.5 million over actual FY 21-22 expenditures, a 7% increase!
- However, Actual surplus data for this year is unavailable at this time – see question #4.
Question 4: What is the connection between the Amity Surplus (Current Year) and the Budget (Following Year)?
An excellent question. Clearly when you actually spent LESS in the current year (a Surplus), then the Actual Increase for the following budget year would be the Budgeted Increase PLUS the Surplus from the prior year. And we know in the past 4 years, Amity has averaged ~ $3,000,000 surplus. This fact resulted in an 8.2% Budget increase of ACTUAL SPENT to BUDGET REQUESTED. In each year of the past 4 years, an average of 8.2%.
Yet the context is deeper than that. Look at EXHIBIT A. Using historical records, I created a chart of the surplus BY MONTH. The January data is what is available when the Amity Finance Committee VOTES on the Future Budget. The March data is what is available when the 3 Member Town taxpayers VOTE for the Budget, assuming Taxpayers have the ability to be aware/can access this information.
Now look at Exhibit B. This chart shows the Surplus data for the Full Fiscal Year, one that has resulted in a $3,000,000 Surplus each year over the last 4 years.
- TIMING: Due to monthly processing April data is available in mid-May; May data is presented in mid-June; awareness of the June data comes out in early July.
- TRENDS: Dramatic increase consistently occur in the April, May, and June months, well past decision & VOTING dates of elected representatives & taxpayers in the 3 Member Towns.
- “Did You Know” Trend: Over the past 4 years, notice that this Surplus TRIPLED by June compared to March. This trend repeatedly occurs in each year AFTER we cast our VOTE on the budget for the coming year.
To avoid unwarranted tax increases, our town governments do everything in their power to accurately budget to fund Town services without budget requests that are well beyond our actual needs. The Orange Board of Finance (OBOF) is simply asking Amity to use this same approach.
Key Upcoming Dates:
- March 14: Amity BOE meets to VOTE on the FY 22-23 Amity budget;
- March-April: Amity Leadership seek ways to trim the approved budget from March 14;
- May 3: Taxpayers from the 3 Member Towns VOTE on the Amity budget.
The seven Orange members of the Amity BOE from Orange are: John Belfonti (Chair), Chris Browe, Shannan Carlson, Paul Davis, Carla Eichler, Sean Hartshorn, Christina Levere-D’Addio.
by Jim Leahy, Vice-Chairman, Orange Board of Finance