Long-Standing Over-Budgeting Issue Remains
At its January 4th meeting, the Orange Board of Finance (OBOF) unanimously approved a motion to support up to a 0.47% budget increase for Amity in FY 21-22. Moreover, this motion also declared that all surpluses in the current budget (FY 20-21) be returned to the member Towns as per the agreement with prior Administrations.
This vote came after a thorough review of the budget details for FY 19-20 in which Amity had a $3,449,000 surplus, a mind-numbing 6.96% of its budget. From there, the OBOF reviewed the 10 categories of items– totaling $1,498,223 – not in the FY 19-20 budget that the Amity Board spend as “End of Year” (EOY) purchases. These EOY items included over $250,000 on items that had already been cut from the 2.49% increase for FY 20-21 budget.
Due to the pandemic, the FY 20-21 Amity budget increase of 2.49% did not get approved by taxpayers at referendum; it was simply approved by the Amity BOE itself. Moreover, in discussion at the Orange BOF meeting, I compared the ACTUAL $$ spent in FY 19-20 to the budgeted amount in FY 20-21: it was an astounding 16% INCREASE. (see graph)
In a high budget surplus environment, the proper way to view Budget increases is to compare ACTUAL budget to the planned budget in the following year (10.16%), not compare budget-to-budget amounts (2.49%) as is often and – in my view – wrongly done.
“The most important thing is that Amity had almost a $3.5 Million surplus in FY 19-20 – that is the key to our 0.47% increase,” stated OBOF Chairman Kevin Houlihan. “Taxpayers need to know we are not gutting them. We are expecting Amity to budget for what they need and not continually over budget.”
For years overbudgeting at Amity has been commonplace. At the meeting, the OBOF Team reviewed 10+ years of data: the actual Amity budget compared to the actual amount spent, with the difference being a surplus. In the last 4 years alone, there has been over $10,000,000 in budgeted money – YOUR TAXES – that have been surplus. That’s an average ANNUAL amount of $2,613,000 in each over the past four years that people in member Towns have been supporting with their taxes.
Not only that, as you can see in the graph below, the SURPLUS each year dwarfs the amount of the requested budget increase. Which means that in each year, you could have budgeted a 0% increase and STILL had a Surplus!
“The National & local economy are soft and shutdowns remain possible,” emphasized long-time OBOF member Kevin Moffett. “And State revenue support of Towns is uncertain. With these factors in mind, we need to ensure that all budgeted amounts truly reflect actual planned expenditures.”
By Jim Leahy, Vice-Chairman, Orange Board of Finance