The Orange Board of Education presented a budget with a 1.17% increase at the annual town budget hearing April 27. A majority of the $235,000 increase is in contractual obligations and special education. “Investment in our human capital is where our funds should be going,” said Superintendent of Schools Vince Scarpetti. The budget shows a decrease in curriculum, textbooks/supplies, technology and facilities. “It’s not so much that we’re cutting in those areas, our costs are just not as high as they were last year,” he said.
On Tuesday, May 15, the town will vote in an Annual Town Meeting at High Plans at 7:30 p.m. to send the budget to a May 23 referendum. Voting takes place at High Plains from noon to 8 p.m.
“If I can get one point across, it would be to please come out and vote for the Amity town budget on May 8th and then please come out and vote for your town budget,” said Schools Business Administrator Mary-Jo Sierakowski, adding that the budget process ramps up in the winter and spring months, but really is a 365-day process.
Scarpetti, noting that the Board of Finance has not asked him to make any further cuts, said, “We need to invest in qualified staff so that our students can make the gains that they need to make.
“Even though special education is increasing due to transportation costs, but that doesn’t mean we don’t look to see where we can reduce and save,” he said. One of those ways is by customizing student workbooks. “We found out that students aren’t using every single page, so we made our own workbook with the pages that they do use. By doing that alone, we saved over $30,000.”
Savings in technology came from reducing the number of color copies. “It’s about behaviors. Instead of allowing anyone access to color printing – color copies are more expensive than black and white – we asked, do we need that many things in color? If you print one page that’s black and white, but has a blue hyperlink, it’s considered color. So, by really paying attention to every detail, we were able to save some money by tightening up there,” he said.
Although the special education costs overall are going up due to student transportation, the district was able to counteract some of the additional cost. “Special education is an unknown. Every child who is a special education student has an IEP and whatever goals and obligations are listed in the IEP, we have to follow. Currently we have nine outplaced students – that adds to our budget and we are obligated to do it. That doesn’t mean we can’t be creative with what we can do. Our special education department is good with saying ‘what could we do?’” Scarpetti said. “With that thinking, we were able to meet the needs of a student who was set to be outplaced within our schools. The goal is always to do what is best for our students.
“Subsequent savings are coming, too. We had been contracting with ACES for a BCBA (board certified behavior analyst) to come in to the schools. We were paying around $150,000 – by hiring someone full-time, we were able to cut that cost in half,” Scarpetti said.
“Not only do I want our residents who have children in our schools to know, but I also want our residents without children in the schools to know that we are making wise choices with their tax dollars,” Scarpetti said.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent