Regional School District Unexpended Funds
At the October 17, 2022, Amity Board of Education meeting, Board members were able to discuss with the Board’s legal counsel and the Board’s financial auditor the CT State Statutes (Section 10-51) governing regional school district financial operations. Of concern was the statutory language that states, “the board shall use any budget appropriation which has not been expended by the end of the fiscal year to reduce the net expenses of the district for the following fiscal year.”
Attorney Floyd Dugas addressed the use of the word “shall” in the statute. He clarified with Board members that “shall” is generally applied as a mandatory term – unless clarifying language allows for some discretion. Statute 10-51c does include any additional clarifying language. He advised the Board of their responsibility to adhere to state statutes.
Superintendent Jennifer Byars and Director of Finance Terry Lumas provided summary research on how other regional school districts comply with the statute. While there was variation among the twelve regional school districts surveyed, there were some common practices identified. None of the regional school districts apply an estimated surplus of the current fiscal year to offset the next fiscal year. All twelve regional school districts wait until the fiscal year close on June 30th and the full financial audit is completed in mid-winter before using the unexpended funds. Five of the districts apply the audited unexpended funds to the next fiscal year’s budget. For example, funds remaining at the end of fiscal year 2022 are audited and identified as unexpended funds in fiscal year 2023, and will be applied toward the next fiscal year, which is fiscal year 2024. Five of the districts put the audited funds into reserve accounts – funding capital non-recurring, medical insurance reserves, pension funds, or a general contingency account. Several districts spend down the projected surplus on large capital projects late in the fiscal year so that a minimum amount of the budget becomes unexpended funds. Only one regional school district returns the audited surplus to their sending towns by way of a check.
Mr. Michael VanDeventer shared his recommendation on the best practice for the application of the surplus funds from the perspective of an accountant and auditor. He stated his opinion that the application of the audited funds to reduce the appropriation for the next year’s budget is a fiscally sound way to comply with the statute. He reiterated the opinion of Attorney Dugas that willful failure to comply with a statute would be a fiscal liability for the district.
The BOE will finalize discussion and possible action on the best manner in which to comply with the statute at the November 14, 2022, Amity Board meeting.
Board Tables Decision on Amity Continuing Education Program
The Board tabled action on disbanding the Amity Continuing Education Program until the November 14, 2022, Board meeting. Interest in the Amity Continuing Education Program has been declining since 2013. The number of program offerings, actual courses, and enrollment had been decreasing and the suspension of course offerings during the pandemic has failed to rebound. Additionally, town Park & Rec programs, Youth Service Bureaus, offer nearby robust continuing education programs and online learning opportunities are providing attendees and facilitators with a wider array of options other than the Amity Continuing Education Program. Additionally, an open position for a Program Director remains vacant. Current classes will run through December; there are no classes planned for the spring session. The most successful program, the summer theater camp for students, will continue through the Drama Student Activities Account.
Policy Committee Updates
In response to concerns expressed last spring and more recently about student behaviors and discipline, the Board of Education Policy Committee is in the process of reviewing all the policies in the 5131 series. These are the policies that govern student conduct and discipline. Included with this review are updates in our bullying policy in response to changes in state statutes and concerns brought to the attention of the Board. Additionally, following the September Board of Education meeting, and as a follow-up to public comment, the policy committee is developing a policy and regulation on the selection of materials for the library media center, as well as updating the policy governing the selection and adoption of textbooks. As with all committee work, recommendations are forwarded to the full Board for review, changes, and final approval.
PSAT Testing Day
On Tuesday, October 12, 2022, all ARHS students in grades 9-11 took the grade-level specific PSAT test during the school day. This is the first year that Amity Regional High School has tested all three grades. Results of the assessments will be used to guide instructional improvement efforts throughout the school year. Students in grades 9-11 expressed appreciation for the opportunity to practice on these tests before moving on to the SAT later in their school experience.
Grade 12 students were encouraged to use the day to work on their post-secondary planning and the college application process. The ARHS Counseling Department is commended for planning and directing the greatly-expanded testing program for this year – nearly 1000 tests were administered to Amity students.
OBOA Day of Dialogue
The high school’s sixth annual One Book One Amity (OBOA) Day of Dialogue, focused on the Summer 2022 theme of “Going Global”, took place on Thursday, October 13, 2022. Students attended a keynote presentation from IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services), Connecticut’s largest refugee resettlement agency, and two workshops of their choice selected from more than 30 options presented by a combination of ARHS faculty members and volunteers from the community.
Amity Transition Academy and University of New Haven Expand Partnership
The University of New Haven Clinic Coordinator in the School of Health Services, and the Amity Pupil Services Department have been collaborating to develop school-based experiences for students in the Speech and Language Program at the University of New Haven. Through this anticipated partnership, students from the University New Haven will be completing clinical practicum and internship experiences across the Amity school community with a specific focus on the Amity Transition Academy. The growing partnership between Amity and the University of New Haven will continue to provide our students with unique and beneficial experiences.
By Paul Davis, Amity BOE Chair