• Why I Am Voting No On The Next Amity Budget Referendum

    April 27, 2023

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    The Amity administration and the board won’t tell you what DEI truly stands for or admit that it’s a racist Marxist-based ideology that they are using to indoctrinate our children. Instead, they rely on your own vocabulary to make it sound like it’s something you are totally comfortable with and aspire to, but they don’t use your dictionary. Instead, they create their own definitions for the same words and hope you won’t notice the difference. As a psychologist, I always look for patterns of behavior. And the deception and lack of transparency by the administration and the board is a pattern of behavior that is not limited to the implementation of the DEI curriculum. It also appears in the budgetary process and its outcome, the proposed budget.

    There’s a new course that the superintendent is teaching called Amity101: How to Pad the Budget and Create a Surplus:

    Amity has had budget surpluses for many years. In the last 5 years, they’ve ballooned to an average of close to $2-and-a-half million dollars. This current year is no exception. Eight months into the operating year, the stated surplus is already close to $1-and-a-half million dollars and will probably be $2-million by year-end. In the past, any surplus was returned to its respective towns. However, since last year, the board decided to retain these multi-million-dollar surpluses to be spent at their discretion. As a result, now these multi-million-dollar budget surpluses truly function as over-taxation.

    Screenshot of Amity Regional School District Website

    Here are some examples of how the budget is padded:
    1.     The superintendent keeps claiming and would try to have you believe that she is doing zero-based budgeting. However, in fact, every year, she repeatedly inserts into and pads the budget with the same items, like a Medical & Dental account, and Other Postemployment Benefits. She historically over-budgets these items so that they end up contributing to a surplus. This year already the Medical & Dental account is now projected to contribute $400,000 to a surplus, because, again, it was overestimated.

    2.     The superintendent’s proposed budget is based on an estimate of the number of students attending the high school next year. However, she overestimates the number of students by totally ignoring the significant number of students who drop out of the Amity system from 8th grade to 9th grade. Last year, there were 40 students. By the way, she already knows the exact number of students dropping out of the Amity system this coming year, as the deadline has passed for families of 8th graders submitting withdrawal forms. She refuses to provide anyone, including Board members who inquire, as to the number of students leaving. Instead, she maintains a higher number as another way to pad the budget.

    3.     The state of CT has increased their reimbursement for special needs. They will be reimbursing 85% of what the district has spent. Yet the proposed budget only notes an 80% reimbursement rate—again, another misleading way of padding the budget and generating a surplus.

    4.     The superintendent includes putting replacement costs for new items, such as the new football field into the budget, even though that money would not be needed for at least another 10 years and could instead, be bonded by the town at the time needed. This money is supposedly put in reserve, but when the budget is approved, it just becomes part of the general surplus which could be used at the discretion of the superintendent.

    5.     Amity will finish paying down its debt after this year, yet it is made to appear in the budget as if it’s still being paid off. More padding.

    And last but not least, my favorite topic, DEI.
    1.     Embedded in last year’s proposal was hiring a DEI Coach. When community members objected to the hiring of a DEI coach, the superintendent said she would “take it out of the budget” and use grants to pay for the position. That’s misleading, as in fact, the position remained in the budget but used other income, such as grant funding that was included in the budget under Income or Revenue. Now, despite continued objection, in this year’s budget, the taxpayers will be paying for the DEI Coach since the grant money only supported the position for one year.

    2.     This year’s proposed budget includes $50,000 for additional DEI Equity Audits. This is after stating clearly at a prior board meeting that they had completed the audits and that no further audits were being done. Just add that to the over $150,000 already spent on DEI and CRT training and untruthful statements like “we’re still in the assessment phase of audits”, despite the fact that it’s taken 3 months for the administration to respond to a FOIA request made in January 2023 because “there is so much material for them to gather and organize” when we asked for any DEI-related curriculum materials. And students have certainly come home with handouts documenting that.

    If you’re looking for truth, honesty, and facts, not fabrication, deception, and manipulation, here it is: As Jim Leahy puts it, the superintendent repeatedly asks for MORE, when it’s well demonstrated that we need LESS. Their requested 2.25% budget increase of $1,200,000, when added to the current year’s $2,000,000 surplus, actually represents a 5.99% spending increase from one year to the next.

    I would like to support Amity’s education. But the deceptiveness in implementing the DEI curriculum that is harmful to students academically and emotionally, and proposing an inflated budget, not based on the reality of what academic excellence costs give me great pause. The reality is that a ZERO increase, in fact, would not hurt Amity at all. As a result, I will be voting a firm NO until the budget reflects the actual costs of running the school on Tuesday, May 2nd and I hope you will join me.

    Don’t be afraid to vote NO. Don’t fall for the scare tactics that sports teams, or your favorite teacher will be cut, or the school will have to shut down. Sports teams and teachers are already included in the basic budget. If this referendum is voted down, the budget would simply go back to the Amity Board to be revised and reduced and submitted for a new vote. Referendums would continue every three weeks until it passed. In the meantime, the school would continue to run on the prior Fiscal Year’s budget.

    Connecticut, you know, is nicknamed the Nutmeg State because ships laden with exotic, foreign spices like nutmeg all came to Connecticut first for them to turn-around and resell. But being a Nutmegger is not really a compliment as early inhabitants had the reputation of making wooden nutmegs and mixing it in with real nutmeg as part of their sales to fool their customers and make more money. This proposed budget is one of those nutmegs and they’re selling it to Woodbridge/Bethany/Orange town voters.

    Telling the administration and the board to be transparent, honest and truthful will be the best way to support the teachers, the school system and most importantly, the students.

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    Michele Tenney

    Michele Tenney is a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutritionist & Wellness Coach with over 16 years of experience. She is a member of the Orange Board of Health and is an active member in her community. She is a wife and mother of three spectacular sons and a grandmother of 2 (+ 1 due in September)

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