The Amity Board of Education and administration realize that providing high quality education to our communities' young people is our primary mission. At the same time, we understand that sound financial practice serves as the foundation upon which our fine educational system is built. We are committed to ensuring that Amity Regional School District #5 creates and maintains exemplary financial practices and operations.

To that end, the Finance Committee and the Board made a decision last year to employ a new auditing firm to review the district's audit. For the past several years, the audit timeframe had to be extended in order to properly account for a detailed analysis of financial operations. This year, a clear goal was set to have the audit completed by Dec. 31, and that goal was accomplished. The Finance Committee and the Board of Education received the audit, as did the town clerks within the timelines establish by statute. This audit confirms that Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge will receive their apportioned share of a $402,542 surplus from the 2004-2005 school year.

Modest budget surpluses have been returned to the three towns by the Amity Regional School District in the past several years. Such surpluses do not occur by accident. In order to squeeze out a small surplus at the end of the year, the Amity Finance Committee and Board of Education, working closely with the administration, must carefully establish a budget that covers all costs and then judiciously manage that budget throughout the year.

Based upon the financial health of Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge and the strong financial management in Amity, Moody's Investors upgraded the District's bond rating from A1 to Aa3. This was a significant accomplishment as it reflects the Board's concerted effort to improve financial practices and put in place a consistent team of effective managers.

In this regard, the Board took a big step forward last summer to solidify its management team to ensure that judicious management of District finances is exactly how things are to be done. Jack Levine, who previously spent 12 years as the North Haven Board of Education Finance Director, took over in Amity. Many improvements have already been put in place, including a three-year spending forecast, vastly improved monthly budget reporting and most significantly, the completion of the district audit on time.

The Finance Committee and the Board purposefully hired a new audit firm and new Director of Finance and Administration in order to have a "fresh set of eyes" take a comprehensive and in-depth look at financial operations. This review is now complete and has found absolutely no deficiencies. However, a number of technical suggestions for improvement have been identified. We are taking these suggestions very seriously and will report to the Finance Committee and the Board in February on our action plan to further improve Amity's financial operations.

Not only is the educational program at Amity strong and vibrant, the underlying financial operations are solid as well.

Dr. Brady is superintendent of schools for the Amity Regional School District.