FULTON, NY – The Fulton Board of Education unanimously adopted a $70,782,921 budget for the 2017-2018 school year with the six present board members’ votes in favor.
In it’s adopted form, the budget shows a 0.63% increase in spending from last year with a 1.34% decrease in the tax levy, resulting in lower tax rates for property owners within the district.
“I think it’s a fair budget,” said FCSD superintendent, Brian Pulvino. “We were able to address some prioritized needs that we had, reduce our dependence on reserves and fund balance with an increase in aid, and on top of that, because of the required formula we have to follow, the tax cap has gone down. I think we’ve got kids needs met and we’ve been able to do what we needed to do.”
An increase in foundation aid after an approved state budget brought in just over $690,000 more in revenue sources for the district.
“We really need to thank our assemblymen and our senators across the state for the nice bump in foundation aid,” said Pulvino, an increase allowing the district to reduce the intended reliance on reserves and assigned fund balance.
Broken down into three parts, the budget sees the largest increase in the program budget, the section of the budget specified to everything to do with instruction including regular school, special education, special schools, student services and extra curricular, and employee benefits, the district’s business administrator Kathy Nichols explained.
“Mainly the increases were in salaries and benefits,” Nichols said, with the program budget seeing an increase of $1,221,948 from the previous year.
The addition of three full time positions impacted the increase as well as contractual salaries set to raise by $990,000 while health and dental insurance is over $800,000 and benefits other than health and TRS are increasing $139,800.
The capital portion of the budget, including operation of plant, maintenance of plant, and debt service, will decrease by $947,690 after roughly $1 million of debt service has been paid.
Finally, the administrative section of the budget including the Board of Education, central administration, school supervision/curriculum, finance, personnel, BOCES administration and employee benefits will increase by $172,163.
Together, these sections combine to total the $70,782,921 expenditures for the 2017-2018 budget, showing a $446,421 increase from the previous year.
The budget shows decreases from six full time employee reductions due to retirements including two elementary teachers and four junior high teachers as well as three teaching assistants to total a decrease of $630,000.
However, increases to the budget included the addition of three full time positions including one technology support position at $65,000, one special education teacher at the junior high at $80,000, and one AIS/EIS teacher at the junior high at $80,000.
“We took one last hard look at just where things are at,” Pulvino explained, adding that 25% of sixth graders preparing to enter the junior high are identified as students with disabilities. Further, the proficiency rates for the same grade level are some of the lowest in the district, particularly in ELA, he said.
Pulvino said these students in particular were the most affected by being caught up in the transition to common core but with new interventions in place the district is already seeing positive results.
“We’ll be able to provide that additional support and continue on with those interventions we have in place, knowing that we have a group of kids coming with a lot of needs. This was a priority for us,” Pulvino said of the two additional junior high positions.
The addition of a full time technology support position has been a priority now that “everything is computer based” including the first year of state testing offered online last month, said Nichols.
Despite the reductions of staff, Pulvino ensured the district will face no layoffs.
“Everybody has a position at this point. Retirements and resignations were able to address our issues,” Pulvino said, with reductions allowing the district to downsize to suit decreasing enrollment trends.
The increase in foundation aid allowed the district to decrease their reliance on reserves and assigned fund balance from $1.625 million to $1.175 million to cover the district’s shortfall.
“We’ve added supports to schools from our original budget and we’ve also reduced our dependence on the use of reserves and assigned fund balance which as you recall, is basically using your savings account,” he said, adding that the tax levy remained the same despite the increase in foundation aid. “That’s really a number of positive things we’re looking at.”
“I’m glad to see the increase and the ability to make some improvements from where we thought we would be. I also want to say that what I was able to see is that you were prepared to do that with the data that you’ve been studying right along so that was very reassuring and certainly makes sense so we can see the positive effects of the added positions on our student achievement,” board president, David Cordone said following the final budget presentation from Superintendent Pulvino.
Now adopted, the district will move forward sharing the budget information to the public including a budget newsletter scheduled for circulation to district residents by May 1 as well as a public budget hearing to be held at the Fulton Education Center at 167 S. Fourth St. on May 3 beginning at 7 p.m.
Eligible voters of the district will be able to vote on the budget on Tuesday, May 16 while polls are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Fulton War Memorial located at 609 W. Broadway.
Voters will also vote on three open seats to the district board of education, the Fulton Public Library budget at the sum of $393,972, two open seats to the library board of trustees, and the purchase of one mini bus and one passenger van not to exceed the total cost of $105,000.
Looking ahead to next year, the budget process will roll out quite differently than recent years.
After developing the 2017-18 budget off of a rollover budget from the previous year, Pulvino said he intends to leave that system for the next school year and instead build a budget from the ground up.
“We’re going to do a zero based budget next year. I think now that I have a year under me it’s a great exercise in really putting a lens on all aspects of the organization to find our strengths and weaknesses, things we may be able to do differently and more cost effectively,” Pulvino said, a process that will begin mid to late summer to allow adequate time to prepare a new budget and allow a fresh mindset to consider things from a different perspective.
To gather more information on the 2017-2018 FCSD budget or to leave any questions of feedback for district officials, visit the school website.