Good Afternoon Amity,
I want to take a moment to briefly explain the Amity Board of Education’s 2012-2013 budget which was passed by the Amity Finance Committee and the Amity Board of Education on Monday night. I have attached a student’s view of the budget which comes from an article in the school newspaper, The Trident. I believe this article provides an articulate rationale to support the 2012-2013 budget.
Amity has done everything possible over the past several years to limit budget increases while continuing to provide quality educational programs and services. We have cut staff; we have wisely used revenue sources other than taxes to reduce the tax burden on the towns; we have refinanced much of our construction debt for a savings of nearly $2,000,000. The Amity teachers’ union has agreed to a 0% increase for the 2012-2013 budget year, and the administrative union took a 0% increase for the current year.
For next year, the Board has decided to self-fund medical, dental and vision benefits for all staff at a savings of $525,000. Self-funding will be a direct savings while having no negative impact on benefits to our employees.
At the same time we have taken these measures to limit the budget increase for next year, expenses are increasing in the area of special education. A number of students whose special needs require highly specialized placements outside of the Amity schools are moving from grade six to grade seven. The overall cost of special education increases is close to $1,000,000. However, because of the manner in which the Board has balanced reductions and increases, the overall budget increase for Amity next year is 0.92% or a dollar total of $401,022.
While the Board of Education was deliberating over the budget, some called for further cuts by the elimination of teaching positions. Those advocating this view noted that the enrollment at Amity has declined slightly over the past several years. This is true and Amity has addressed the lower enrollment by reducing five positions two years ago with another position slated for elimination in the proposed budget. Elimination of teaching positions as enrollment declines is a delicate and complicated process which must be done with the best interest of students in mind. The enrollment decline for 2012-2013 is projected at sixty-four students over six grades. The decline does not equate to any further reduction in teachers other than the one position slated for elimination. We must be mindful that Amity graduation requirements will increase over the next several years which means students will have to take additional courses in world languages, science and mathematics in order to obtain an Amity diploma. To reduce teaching positions further at this time would be to begin the process of eroding quality and would leave us without staffing levels needed to meet the new graduation requirements. Fortunately, the Board of Education chose not to go down this path.
I think those advocating cutting teachers to save tax dollars are misapplying a business theorem to education. In business, when you sell less products, frequently there is a downsizing of labor to maintain profit margins. Expenses are cut so as to maximize profits. Education, while expensive, is not a business and the money going into education is not an expense, it is an investment. Organizations that cut investment to save a little money in the present do so at the peril of their futures.
Amity is one of the strongest public school districts in the State of Connecticut. I am confident that a majority of community members in Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge value the investment they are making in the young people of these communities and they will see the 2012-2013 budget as reasonable and supportable.
Please be sure to open the attachment to read Miles Halpine’s editorial about the Amity budget. I think he lays out a cogent rationale that is stated better than I could put it.
The entire Amity Board’s budget will be available for viewing on the Amity web site at www.amityregion5.org within the next couple of days.
Please remember to vote on Tuesday, May 8, 2012.
John J. Brady, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools