WOODBRIDGE/BETHANY/ORANGE — Voters approved the 2022-23 budget for Amity Regional School District on Monday by a margin of 233 votes after two failed earlier referendums.
Woodbridge voted 792-625 in favor of the budget and Bethany voted 558-418 in favor. Orange voted 1168-1094 against the budget.
The approved budget represents a 3.19% increase for a total of $53,349,805.
The district’s first referendum, held on May 3, failed by a margin of about 500 votes across the town. The district then removed three positions, including a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Instructional Coach, a custodial position and an administrative position, lowering the proposed budget increase from 3.99% to 3.59%.
The second referendum, held on May 24, failed by a margin of 76 votes.
At a Board of Education meeting on May 31, community members spoke both for and against the budget. Members in favor highlighted the need to fund elective courses, while other community members pushed back against the district’s work on diversity, equity and inclusion.
The board members ultimately decided to eliminate a proposed administrative assistant and a school health aide position and reduced a few of the district’s other non-instructional line items.
Superintendent Jennifer Byans said at the meeting that if the budget were to fail a third time, it could have meant significant cuts to funding for school security, sports and instructional supplies.
Byans told CT Examiner in an emailed statement that it took “a tremendous amount of work” to get the third referendum passed, and that she understood that the final vote in favor was a narrow one. She also said that she was pleased that the approved budget would include important amenities for the schools.
“The addition of the middle school elective classes will open up many new learning opportunities for our 7th and 8th grade students. The additional security officer at the high school will provide coverage in both our halls and outdoor spaces. And the new special education program will keep Amity students in Amity. Additionally, we were able to preserve the Board’s commitment to Academics, Athletics, and the Arts,” Byans said.
Byans said she looked forward to working more with the towns and the district’s finance committee to help people better understand the budgeting process and to partner around efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion.