On any average night, Fulton school buildings are alive with activity. A youth sports league team may be practicing on school district fields. A Neighborhood Watch group or Girl Scout troop may be meeting in a classroom. A volleyball league may be playing in an elementary school gym.
None of these groups is a part of the Fulton City School District, yet each one has a stake in the outcome of next month’s budget vote.
If the budget fails and the district is forced to adopt a contingent budget, all of these groups may be looking for new homes.
“This community gets a lot of use out of these buildings,” said Board of Education member Brian Hotaling, in a comment that is as much a warning as it is a statement of fact.
The district will ask its taxpayers to approve in May a $60 million budget that raises the tax levy 2.5% and cuts 18 positions. If that vote fails, and if a second vote also fails, the district will be forced by law to adopt a contingent budget.
The board recently reviewed what a contingent budget would look like. It would require another $283,597 in cuts and would drop the tax levy increase to about 1.1%. (Get a detailed explanation of contingency budgets here.)
It would also force community groups to either pay for their use of school buildings and grounds, or go elsewhere. Free community use of district facilities is one of several things banned by law under a contingent budget, along with such items as student supplies and some equipment purchases.
“You go to any building tonight, you’re going to see something going on that won’t be going on if we have to do this,” said Hotaling.
“There are a lot of things that are taken for granted right now,” agreed district financial official Kathy Nichols.