Bethany, Orange, and Woodbridge are beginning the process of preparing their town budgets for fiscal year 2023-2024. It is going to be a difficult year with inflation, and there will be many reductions in town department budgets to try and keep tax increases as low as possible. All this while Amity has millions of dollars in surpluses as a result of bloated budgets which causes over taxation of the three towns and ultimately the taxpayers who fund Amity’s budget requests. In the past Amity has refunded their surpluses to the three towns to be used by the towns to lessen the burden on the dozens of town departments that provide vital services to all town residents not just those with children who attend Amity schools. This year Amity has decided to no longer refund these surpluses to the towns based on a state statute which has been in effect for years, that allows Amity to retain surplus funds and use them as they feel necessary and then offsetting their budget request with what is left. I have no confidence that the towns will ever see a significant reduction in the budget request to reduce town taxes.
First of all, Amity can retain more than $1 million into their capital and nonrecurring fund every year to be used for what they deem capital projects that are necessary. Realize that they do this without taxpayer approval. In fact, the Amity Finance Committee which includes town representatives, voted to limit this to $500,000 this year, but that was rejected by the Amity Board of Education, a regular occurrence with the Finance Committee recommendations, which caused me to resign from the committee after 20 years. The rest of the surplus can be used to fund the dozens of other essential projects the Superintendent sees as necessary, again without taxpayer approval. And the Board of Education approves all of this with little discussion. Whatever is left can be used to offset future budgets, but I believe that there will be little if any additional funds available and from what I have heard, it might not happen, if at all, for two years. Amity truly has a blank check to fund whatever they want with no input from the three towns or the taxpayers who provided these funds in the first place. That is truly a recipe for disaster.
Dr. Sudhar, a newcomer to the Amity Board, recently wrote a lengthy two-part letter about the subject and he believes that Amity is handling its budget and surpluses exactly as they should. Taxpayers approve Amity’s budget at referendum and do not expect part of that approval to include millions of dollars of surplus money to be used however Amity sees fit, with the taxpayers in the dark after they vote for the budget. I would invite Dr. Sudhar to attend our budget hearings and explain to the dozens of departments we make cuts to, that they have to accept these cuts while Amity has millions in surplus funds. These departments provide vital services to ALL town residents and year after year they are told to do more with less. In the past when Amity refunded their surpluses to the towns we would not have to cut as much from department budgets, but that will not happen this year. This is grossly unfair and taxpayers need to make note of this when Amity’s budget referendum comes up for a vote next May.
I have never, in my nearly 50 years living in Woodbridge and my 20 years being involved with Amity, seen so much dissatisfaction with Amity. A large group of residents are attending meetings and writing letters protesting educational issues and are routinely disregarded and ignored at Board meetings. Yet this group and our finance group are growing every day with dissatisfied residents. Amity had better wake up and realize that voters are taking notice of what is going on at Amity. They rejected the budget twice last year and this year there is much more negative news which will, in my opinion, result in multiple rejections. Consider that 20% of the eighth-grade class from Orange chose not to attend Amity High School and are going elsewhere, with parents paying significant tuition. How do you imagine those parents will vote? If that isn’t cause for concern then what is?
Matthew T. Giglietti CPA
Chairman Woodbridge Board of Finance
20 Year Vice Chairman- Amity Finance Committee