Fair Way to Handle Surpluses: Return Funds to the Towns
Since Amity announced that it would no longer be returning budgetary surpluses to the three towns and the taxpayers who provided the funds in the first place, the chair of the Amity board has written several lengthy letters explaining why this change is necessary and in the best interest of all parties concerned.
This change to not return budget surpluses to the Towns came about based on an obscure and until recently unknown state statute which asserts that surplus funds should be used to offset the next year’s budget. For the past 15-16 years Amity has refunded surpluses to the three towns in proportion to their contributions to Amity. Over this period of time, Amity’s auditing firm never once indicated in the audit report that this was improper.
Never once did their lawyers indicate it was improper. Never once did the State of Connecticut, which reviews all reports, indicate this was improper. Interestingly, the current chair of the Amity board, while he was a regular board member, voted for the budgets and thus endorsed the return of funds to the three towns. Now, he is insisting that Amity must retain all surplus funds to be used at its discretion, instead of returning the money to the three towns.
When you consider that over the years these surpluses have amounted to millions of dollars, one year the surplus was over three million, it seems unconscionable that they should retain these unspent taxpayer dollars. If they budget $50,000,000 to fund Amity but only spend $47,000,000, they have overtaxed the taxpayers of the three towns $3,000,000 dollars and should return this $3,000,000 to the three towns. Remember budgetary surpluses equal over taxation! Repeated bloated budgets take resources away from other needs our towns have, including elementary education. Amity is not the only school system that taxpayers support.
Now Amity will tell you they are going to use all surplus funds to offset the next year’s budget and thus reduce the amount the taxpayers will have to contribute. Is that after they fund their unending list of projects? The surplus could easily disappear into the next year’s budget without any transparency to the taxpayers. Trust me, provide me with the detailed budget and I could reduce the Amity budget by $2,000,000 with little effort.
In my view, the only fair way to handle these massive surpluses is to return the funds—in good faith—to whoever supplied them in the first place. That, of course, is the taxpayers from Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge.
I urge all taxpayers to be aware of what is going on at Amity. In nearly fifty years residing in Woodbridge, I have never seen the massive level of dissatisfaction with Amity, in both budgeting, financial, and education related issues. Board meetings are never ending due to the high volume of public comments critical of what is going on. Not to mention the concern about the amount of time of student time spent on progressive agenda issues, leaving less time for learning the basics. Many parents believe this shift is the root cause of the dramatic drop in Amity’s rankings among CT secondary schools. Amity used to be in the Top 5 and has plummeted to #22 in the latest ranking.
It’s a sad commentary on the state of Amity, and the dissatisfaction appears to be gaining momentum. I know many people who are unhappy and they are highly respected, genuine people who are concerned about the direction Amity has taken.
As far as the Amity budget and finances are concerned, a large group of financial people will be getting together in the near future to assess the financial situation at Amity and carefully review the budget and to keep all taxpayers informed as to financial developments. So, there is much more to come as we begin to provide taxpayers with all the information needed to understand Amity’s finances.
By Matthew T. Giglietti CPA, Chairman, Woodbridge Board of Finance