Amity’s Inaccurate Budget Process Impacts Taxes of all Three Member Towns
The following Article was submitted by Jim Leahy, who serves as Vice-Chairman of the Orange Board of Finance.
The objective of this article is to share information across the Amity member Towns: Bethany, Orange, and Woodbridge. On January 24, the Orange Board of Finance (OBOF) met with Amity Administration to review the initial proposed Amity budget for FY 22-23.
OBOF Supports up to a 0.41% INCREASE in AMITY BUDGET for FY 22-23
As explained a prior article (02-10-22, Woodbridge Town News), Amity’s current budget (FY 21-22) contains an 8.2% increase from Actual-to-Budget. Moreover, in the last 4 years Amity surplus dollar amount was over FOUR TIMES the budget increase dollar amount. This fact means that in each year the Amity school system provided excellent educational services for its students without a need for ANY INCREASE in each of those years. And not only that, they still would have had a significant surplus.
This habit of excessive budgeting has caused unnecessary tax increases in Orange, Woodbridge & Bethany. If Amity just keeps the previous budget with a modest increase or in fact a zero increase, history shows that Amity would have more than enough to provide quality education for our students and our towns would not be forced to raise taxes to cover a bloated budget estimate.
Kevin Moffett, long-time OBOF member, put it this way: “Budgeting should be based on ACTUALS because – as seen by the Amity surpluses – the prior year’s budget is inflated to begin with.”
OBOF ACTION: At the January 24th meeting, the Orange Board of Finance (OBOF) unanimously approved a motion to support an Amity FY 22-23 budget of up to $51,910,170, an increase of $211,963, a 0.41% increase. This vote came after an in-depth review & discussion of the budget details of the Proposed Amity Budget for FY 22-23, an extended dialogue with Amity leadership, and a thorough & systemic review of both current & historical Amity data & information. I encourage you to view this 2-hour OBOF meeting at https://youtu.be/h-n_iW7zlvU
Amity Proposed Budget for FY 22-23. Key Points to Consider:
- Overall, 68 fewer students down to 2,164 lowest in 20 years, 6 fewer students from Woodbridge
- Yet Woodbridge share of Amity students goes UP from 32.23% to 32.59%
- Proposed adding 7.2 staff positions
- Proposed spending increase of $2,544,901 to $54,243,108, a 92% spending increase is more than DOUBLE the 2.35% average increase for the past 16 years
- One year Impact to Woodbridge taxpayers is an increase of $1,078,903, a 6.63% increase
- On 02-28-22, the Amity Finance Committee passes a 3.99% spending increase. One year Impact to Woodbridge taxpayers: an increase of $874,964, a 5.38% increase to Woodbridge.
- For FY 23-24, Amity is forecasting ANOTHER significant “Budget-to-Budget” increase of 4.49%.
- Four-year budget forecast INCREASE to Woodbridge taxpayers is $2,566,394
AMITY SURPLUSES ARE RAISING YOUR TAXES
In the last 4 years, Amity has a TOTAL aggregate surplus of $11.9 MILLION averaging $2.983,979 per year. Since Woodbridge pays ~33% of Amity, that means Woodbridge taxpayers have spent ~ $1,000,000 in TAXES in each of the LAST 4 YEARS for what ended up being a SURPLUS. These amounts are an UNNECESSARY burden to every Taxpayer of Woodbridge, Bethany, and Orange.
Kevin Houlihan, Chairman of the Orange Board of Finance, expressed a growing concern, “The continual overbudgeting at Amity filters down to our Town Departments and the Board of Education. In essence, Amity is taking money – that only results in surplus—that could be deployed elsewhere.”
What does this AMITY Increase Mean to WOODBRIDGE TAXPAYERS?
Thought Experiment: Consider the impact on Woodbridge Taxpayers: What if all Town departments and the Woodbridge Board of Education followed the lead of Amity & presented budgets similar to what Amity has proposed for FY 22-23? How would that impact YOU, the TAXPAYER? What if all budgets had a 5.38 % or a 6.63% impact? The tax increases required to meet these budget requests are listed below.
To avoid unwarranted tax increases, our town governments do everything in their power to accurately budget to fund Town services without budget requests that are well beyond our actual needs. Essentially, we need the Amity Regional School district to budget accurately with a keen eye on its impact on taxpayers.
As always it is up to you, the taxpayer, to judge if the Amity budget request best serves the people of the district. You – the taxpayer—get to vote on that question on May 3.