The Amity School District managed to avoid a confrontation with its member towns regarding its 2022 budget by lowering anticipated expenses by close to $1 million. Over the course of the past three months the district administration, which started with an increase of just under 6%, managed to shave that increase back to 3.72 and, eventually, 1.8%.
“The biggest [surprise] was Amity,” said Woodbridge Finance Board Chairman Matt Giglietti, when he was meeting with his board on March 4. Giglietti said he went into the Amity Finance Committee meeting expecting a tough negotiation, but it turned out “a very pleasant meeting,” he said.
Even members of the Orange Board of Finance did not insist on the .49% increase cap the board had insisted on back in January after delving into the yearly Amity surpluses. This year, in fact, the surplus returned to the towns by Amity was quite welcome, given the steep income declines towns have seen due to the lockdown and low interest rates.
If approved, Amity’s total budget of $51.7 million represents a $913,698 increase over the current year’s budget. The contribution of each member town is based on the number of students attending, and would break down as follows:
|Bethany||$ 9,000,731||$ 8,983,608||($17,123)||(-.19%)|
|Other revenue||$1,023,720||$1,202, 9702||$179,250||17.5%|
Amity Public Hearing
The public hearing regarding the Amity budget will be held at the Orange Middle School Large Group Instruction Room, Monday, April 5 at 6:30 p.m. The referendum is scheduled for Wednesday, May 5, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the three member towns. People can request an absentee ballot ahead of time.
The primary budget drivers for 2021-2022 are the number of special education students and their needs; contracted salaries; capital improvements; and providing instructional resources/textbooks for student learning.
School Supt. Jennifer Byars introduced the last round of cuts at the March 8 Board of Education meeting. They included:
- reduction in health insurance reserve from 25% to 22% ($386K savings);
- updated health insurance rate ($125,748 savings);
- updated savings in benefits ($30,178);
- eliminate two student outplacements ($184,396 savings);
- staff position adjustments ($117,513 in savings);
- purchase of items in the current fiscal year (musical instrument lease/student agenda books/ sidewalk repair – ($66,046 savings);
- devices for remote work (+$23,250);
- Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II) for new programs/items ($93,037 savings).
Total additional reductions: $973,738.
This latest round of cuts includes a staff reduction by attrition, which will impact primarily the middle schools. The plan is to maintain two of currently 4 reading teachers as part of the middle schools’ Life Arts rotations. Instead, a Literacy Coach could be shared between the two middle schools and they will teach literacy as part of Reader’s Workshop in English. To make up for the reduced literacy rotation, they will add general music as a rotation.
Dr. Byars assured the board that this program adjustment had been planned for the near future anyways, and that it did not represent a programmatical loss for the students. What may hit the middle school harder than the reconfigured rotations is the elimination of a 10-month secretary. Instead, Byars proposed that the two middle schools share a “floater secretary.”
The cuts also include the elimination of a support services team leader at the middle school, with the responsibilities shifting to the middle school Pupil Services coordinator.
The budget helps maintain health/PE instruction at the middle schools as well as Mandarin Chinese. It also maintains ten paid summer work days for the department chairs to prepare for the new school year.
The district has a history of responsible budgeting, the superintendent assures the reader in the explanatory materials that were posted on the District website, at https://resources.finalsite.net/images/v1616003193/amityregion5org/tuxjbe2rbvjdgppxrm8h/2021-2022BoardApprovedBudget.pdf.
By looking for cost savings and efficiencies, the school administration “reassures the taxpayers that we are using their money wisely – Our prudent financial management has kept budget increases as low as possible; provided year-end fund balances, which have been returned to the member towns or used for high-priority needs; and our sound financial operations, transparent fiscal reporting, and prudent spending have played a key role in 13 consecutive years of the budget passing on the first try.”
By Bettina Thiel – Orange Town News Correspondent