First Selectman James Zeoli warned the board of selectman in February that the residents of Orange are in for a rocky ride this budget season.
He reported to the board that the governor’s plan to cut funding to towns would deeply affect Orange.
“This was just the initial proposal, so there may be adjustments by the house and senate as it develops,” he said. “For fiscal year ’17, the town of Orange, through grants, assistance, education cost-share money, and a litany of things, should be receiving $2,369,122. That hasn’t grown very much. When I took office 12 years ago, we were getting $1.9 million.”
Under the governor’s proposed budget adjustments in February, Orange in fiscal year 2018 is set to receive $57,593, a hit of $2,311,529 to the town of Orange.
While the cuts are enormous, there are also additions, Zeoli explains: “It’s strange because there were some additions of some other moneys. Capital improvement account is frozen this year at $104,000. Next year, we’re proposed to get $181,000.”
The education cost-share grant, which is money that is usually given to the schools which encompasses special needs, special services and other education costs, took a $101,000 a few weeks ago.
“We went from $1.6 million to $1.5 million. It’s slated for next year to go to $51,688. But they added a new column – special education money – $926,199. It’s still a $400,000 shortfall from the ECS number that we’re currently at, but they manipulated money around.”
“One of the biggest concerns, and it is in no way, shape or form the teachers’ fault, the governor says we should pick up part of the teachers’ retirement fund $1,997,989. A mil in Orange is about $1.4 million, so when you’re looking at a $2.3 million hit, that’s before any budget growth from Orange Elementary, Amity, or the town of Orange. With just that, you’re already headed toward a 2 mil increase if we let this go unchecked,” Zeoli said.
As the town continues its budget planning process, the two school districts are reactively tightening their budgets, under the watchful eye of the Orange Board of Finance.