After four rounds of budget cuts, the Amity Board of Education will be asked to approve a spending plan that carries a 1.34% increase over this current year’s budget. “We have created for Amity a very responsible budget that allows the superintendent to continue the excellence that we have built here with taking moderate risks. We have strived in every way to make sure that the Blue Ribbon experience that we have at Amity continues to prepare our students for college and career,” said James Stirling, chair of the board’s finance sub-committee.
“That said, we are talking about exceptional financial times. We’ve been talking for years about the state eventually coming to bite us. I think it’s time to cut into our budget and I think Amity could be a leader in this new fiscal reality in Connecticut,” he said. The latest round of cuts removed nearly $300,000 from the budget including a $21,000 savings in utilities.
“As the year goes on, we get a closer look at where we’ll actually be at with some costs such as utilities. With the fuel cell – heating exchange, we expected a savings, but we weren’t sure just how much to expect until now,” Superintendent of Schools Charles Dumais said. He also eliminated a .8 FTE position he had added in the music department to meet the needs of a resurging strings program.
“I’m wondering if we can, in the way of collaboration, find a way to work that 1.8 out of the existing staff we have and not replace one or two of the retirees, but that might be somewhere we can look,” said Board Member Thomas Hurley.
“Our role as a board is to look at the amount of the budget and if the budget needs to be cut, it is up to the superintendent to make the cuts. That’s management at the district level,” said Board Chairman William Blake.
Hurley disagreed, “We can’t be looking at growing the district. It is not reasonable. We should look to see if we can get around with a lower number of people.”
“While I still believe a music teacher is necessary to our growing program, it is seen as an addition,” Dumais said. He also cut funding that would have gone toward building improvements, saying the improvements may be payed from funds left at the end of the year. Board Vice Chairman Member Tracey Russo agreed that the decisions of where to cut lies with the administration, “I am not sure that we are giving deference to the professionals that we have in place to do this. I’m sure there are places to cut. I am not qualified to tell anyone where the places to cut are.”
“I do think that as the ones who approve the budget and pass it on to the towns to pay for, we do have a responsibility to give some guidance. We’re looking at the data from the governor’s office; we’re looking at the data from the last couple of years. To ignore that would be the same as to say there is no global warming,” said Board Member Christopher Browe. “We have been very good about being proactive and making choices here at Amity to be on the cutting edge and advancing. I think there is a message we need to send back.” Budget drivers include contracted salaries, employee benefits, technology and facility needs, and textbooks.
“One of the challenges with the budget is in changes the governor made with funding to special education. Nearly $1 million would have come to the regional district, but is going through the town and that will show an increase in town allocations,” Dumais said.
The Amity Board of Education will be asked to vote on the budget at its monthly meeting on March 13.