ORANGE, CT – The Regional 5 Board of Education is scheduled to consider what to do with unspent funds at its November 14 meeting.
District attorneys provided legal opinions on what the school board must do with unspent funds.
Below is an open letter from Board of Education Chair Paul Davis on this topic and other updates:
By Paul Davis, Amity BOE Chairman
Regional school district unspent funds
At the October 17, 2022 Amity Board of Education meeting, Board members discussed with the Board Counsel and Board Auditor the CT State Statutes (Sections 10-51), which govern the financial affairs of regional school districts. Of concern was the wording of the law, which states: “The board shall use any budget funds unspent at the end of the fiscal year to reduce the district’s net expenditure for the following fiscal year.”
Attorney Floyd Dugas addressed the use of the word “shall” in the law. He clarified to Board members that ‘shall’ is generally used as a mandatory term unless the clarifying language allows for some discretion. Statute 10-51c does not contain any additional clarifying language. He reminded the board of its responsibility to comply with state laws.
Superintendent Jennifer Byars and Treasurer Terry Lumas provided summary studies of how other regional school districts are complying with the law. While there were differences among the twelve regional school districts surveyed, some common practices were identified. None of the regional school districts apply an estimated current fiscal year surplus to balance the next fiscal year. All twelve regional school districts are waiting until the fiscal year ends June 30 and the full financial review is completed in the middle of winter before using the unspent funds. Five of the districts use the audited unspent funds for the next fiscal year’s budget. For example, the funds remaining at the end of fiscal year 2022 are reviewed and identified as unspent funds in fiscal year 2023 and used for the next fiscal year, which is fiscal year 2024. Five of the districts place the audited funds in reserve accounts – one-off funding funds, health insurance reserves, pension funds, or a general retirement savings account. Several districts spend the projected surplus on large capital projects towards the end of the fiscal year, leaving a minimum amount of the budget as unspent funds. Only one regional school district returns the audited surplus by check to its sending city.
Mr. Michael VanDeventer shared his recommendation on the best practices for the use of the excess funds from an accountant’s and auditor’s perspective. He expressed his opinion that using the audited funds to reduce appropriations for next year’s budget is a fiscally sound way to comply with the statutes. He reiterated Attorney Dugas’ opinion that willful failure to comply with any law would result in tax liability for the district.
The BOE will finalize the discussion and possible actions to comply with the statute at the November 14, 2022 Amity Board meeting.
Board makes decision on Amity Continuing Education Program
The Board has submitted action to resolve the Amity Continuing Education Program by the November 14, 2022 Board Meeting. Interest in the Amity Continuing Education Program has declined since 2013. The number of program offerings, actual classes, and enrollments had declined, and the suspension of class offerings during the pandemic has not recovered. In addition, municipal Park & Rec programs, Youth Service Bureaus, offer robust continuing education programs nearby, and online learning opportunities that give participants and facilitators a wider range of options than the Amity Continuing Education Program. In addition, an open position for a program director remains vacant. Current classes run through December; There are no courses planned for the spring session. The most successful program, Summer Student Theater Camp, continues through the Drama Student Activities Account.
Policy Committee updates
In response to concerns raised last spring and more recently regarding student behavior and discipline, the Board of Education Policy Committee is in the process of reviewing all of the policies in the 5131 series. These are the guidelines that govern student behavior and discipline. This review includes updates to our bullying policy in response to changes in state law and concerns brought to the attention of the board. In addition, following the September Board of Education meeting and as a follow-up to public comment, the Policy Committee is developing a policy and regulation governing the selection of materials for the library’s library and updating the policy governing the selection and acceptance of textbooks . As with all committee work, recommendations are forwarded to the full Board for consideration, amendment and final approval.
PSAT test day
On Tuesday, October 12, 2022, all ARHS students in grades 9-11 took the grade level specific PSAT test during the school day. This is the first year that Amity Regional High School has tested all three grades. The results of the assessments are used to guide efforts to improve teaching throughout the school year. Students in Grades 9-11 expressed appreciation for the opportunity to practice these tests before progressing to the SAT later in their school experience.
Year 12 students were encouraged to use the day to work on their post-secondary planning and college application process. The ARHS Advisory Department is commended for planning and directing the greatly expanded testing program for this year – nearly 1000 tests were administered to Amity students.
OBOA Day of Dialogue
The sixth annual high school One Book One Amity (OBOA) Day of Dialogue, focused on the Summer 2022 theme of Going Global, was held on Thursday, October 13, 2022. Students participated in a keynote presentation from IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services), Connecticut’s largest refugee resettlement agency, and two workshops of their choice, chosen from more than 30 options led by a combination of ARHS faculty members and volunteers were presented to the community.
Amity Transition Academy and University of New Haven expand partnership
The University of New Haven Clinic Coordinator in the School of Health Services and the Amity Pupil Services Department worked together to develop school-based experiences for students in the Speech and Language Program at the University of New Haven. Through this anticipated partnership, University New Haven students will complete clinical internships and internship experiences in the Amity school community, with a particular focus at the Amity Transition Academy. The growing partnership between Amity and the University of New Haven will continue to provide unique and beneficial experiences for our students.