Orange residents will have the opportunity to vote on a nearly $65 million budget on May 19 from noon until 8 p.m. at High Plains Community Center. The budget for general town operations increased by 2.69%, or $608,281 over this current year and the town’s share of the Amity budget increased by $644,407 or 2.96%. The Orange Board of Education costs increased by 2.44% or $458,822. The aggregate increase in the budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 would be 2.7% if approved by voters.
The Police Services’ budget will see an increase of 6.43% to $4,884,058 and an additional $80,000 will be added to the Public Works’ budget for snow removal. This year’s budget had $67,000 for snow removal – next year’s will have $147,000. Increases are offset by decreases in such areas as capital projects, for example, where next year’s request is $166,950 less than last year’s budgeted amount.
The Orange Board of Education presented to the town a $19,280,735 spending plan at the town hearing on April 27. The spending plan’s 2.4% increase is mostly driven by contractual obligations.
The Amity Board of Education’s 2015-2016 budget is $46,902,342, an increase of $854,480 or 1.86 percent, over the current budget. Member Town Allocations are higher by $1,140,012, or 2.58 percent. The proposed budget includes designated funds of $150,000 from the prior year compared to the current budget of $266,000. Amity is facing a decrease in revenues by $285,532, or 15.5 percent due to a decrease in Special Education Grants ($157,094) and a lower amount of designated funds from the prior year ($116,000).
Aside from contractual increases to salaries and benefits, the budget includes $183,000 for site improvements such as asphalt replacement, sidewalk repair and resodding the crown of the football field. According to Superintendent Charles Dumais’ budget presentation, “We held off on purchasing texts and digital resources in this school year, because we wanted to be sure all the necessary changes to the Connecticut Common Core Standards were made. The proposed 2015-2016 budget is $126,149, or an increase of $110,598 over this current year.”
The increase is being offset by savings in other costs such as oil heat, instructional supplies and transportation supplies (lower diesel costs). “The budget consists of only the items we need. It is counter-intuitive to think we can ‘do without’ something in the budget unless you assume it was never needed in the first place. This is not the case. We spend a great deal of time scrutinizing every budget request. Some are cut because it is a want rather than a need. Others are eliminated due to budget constraints. We also take risks by budgeting below the ‘comfort zone’ where funds can be readily found without much effort. Some of the types of actions we can take are mentioned below. This is a strategy to handle the unexpected events when they happen next fiscal year,” he said. Amity is also anticipating a 20-year bonding issue in 2016-2017 for $2,068,500 and a 20-year bonding issue in 2019-2020 for $1,775,000 for capital projects.
Amity Referendum: Wednesday, May 6 at HPCC 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Orange Annual Town Meeting: Monday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. at HPCC
Orange Budget Referendum: Tuesday, May 19, 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. at HPCC
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent