A committee is looking at all aspects of how the Fulton City School District spends its money, helping to build a budget for the next school year.
“The committee is starting to get really in depth,” said Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch this week. But the outlook for the new budget is pretty bleak.
That’s because state aid to the district will be, at best, no more than it is for the current school year, “Which is really a cut,” said Lynch. The state will have to fill a budget gap of as much as $7 billion in its next budget, due April 1, and Gov. David Paterson has proposed across-the-board cuts, including cuts to education aid, long considered an untouchable sacred cow of state spending.
“It’s just devastating, what we’re looking at for support” from the state, Lynch said.
The committee is made up of members of the Board of Education, some district administrators and several members of the community. All of its agendas, minutes and some documents are archived on the district’s website.
Among the discoveries from its most recent meeting:
- District staffing has stayed stable or decreased, except for staffing related to children with special needs. The district has been taking back special needs programs once handled by BOCES because district officials say it’s less expensive and keeps children in their home school district. Over the same time period, the district has eliminated at least 18 teaching positions;
- Classes at the high school which do not attract enough students are in danger of being eliminated, while there is pressure to add more advanced placement courses, which help students receive college credit. Retirements to two teachers in the high school’s technology department offer an opportunity to reshape that department;
- A wave of retirements will force the district to set aside more money for its retirement fund contributions, at a time when districts are already being forced to pay sharply higher rates because the retirement fund’s investments sank with the economy. The retirements of 15 staff and 1 administrator will cut its salary and benefits costs by more than $500,000, however;
- With all of the proposed cuts factored in, keeping the district’s programs and staffing right where they are now would require an 18% increase in the tax levy.
The group meets every two weeks, on Tuesday evening. Its next meeting is February 2.