Fulton Board of Ed Adopts Proposed Budget After Final Cut in Tax Rate

Fulton school district administrators gave a final tweak this week to the proposed 2010-11 budget, lowering the proposed tax levy increase a little bit more.

Superintendent Bill Lynch and district financial chief Kathy Nichols told the Board of Education that they’ve increased their projection of income from various sources, including Medicaid reimbursements, interest income and energy refunds.  They’ve also pulled $75,000 out of the reserve fund to pay refunds to winners of big tax assessment challenges.  The changes added up to half a million dollars.

That lowered the tax levy increase in the proposed budget to 2.5%.  The board adopted the budget unanimously and sent it to voters for their decision.

The $60.8 million budget proposal increases spending by 0.6% — about $345,000 — from the current budget. The budget appears to increase spending by 4.1% and $2.3 million, but that’s because the district has to include $2.05 million in payments from the state for its construction project work.  Every dollar of that $2.05 million will go right back out to contractors who did the work.  Even though the district is acting only as a pass-through for the money, it must be reflected in its revenues for the budget.

The budget requires the loss of 18 jobs. Some will be positions left unfilled after retirements.  Lynch said there were more retirements this year than he expected.

“We have a lean budget,” he said.

“Based on what we know today,” said board member Robbin Griffin, “this is a well thought-out plan.  But there’s a lot we don’t know.”

School districts will adopt budgets in the next couple of weeks in advance of the May 18 statewide school budget voting day.  They are unlikely to know for sure how much state aid they will receive, as state lawmakers have not yet approved the budget they were supposed to finalize by April 1.

Districts across the state have had to cope with a cut in aid. Gov. David Paterson instituted an across-the-board 5% cut in aid to help fill the state’s $9 billion budget deficit.  Fulton receives 62% of its money from state aid, so the $1.7 million loss was significant.

There has been talk that some state lawmakers may try to help districts like Fulton that have been the hardest hit by the cutback.

But Lynch warned that any extra state aid that might show up after the budget’s approved should be set aside for what everyone’s been told will be an even worse budget year next year.  “I would not recommend to the Board that we bring back any positions (being cut) because we know we face a very challenging situation next year,” he said.