by Randy Pellis
FULTON, April 25, 2019 — Fulton’s school board unanimously stamped its final approval Wednesday evening on a proposed $73.35 million budget that will go before the district’s voters May 21.
State aid of nearly $50 million makes up 68 percent of the 2019-2020 revenues necessary to fund the $73.35 million. Another $2.26 million in miscellaneous income leaves Fulton’s taxpayers responsible for the remaining tax levy of $21.19 million, a
$556,030, or 2.69 percent, increase over last year’s budget.
None of the district’s reserves will be put towards lowering that levy. Instead, $1.4 million in reserve funds will go toward a proposed $15.1 million capital improvement project, $13.7 million of which will be covered by state aid. Use of those reserves will enable the project to go forward at no additional cost to taxpayers.
The May 21 public vote will be broken down into separate resolutions, those being: the $73.35 million budget itself; the $15.1 million capital improvement project; the purchase of one passenger van and one wheelchair bus not to cost more than
$112,000; a tax, separate from the annual school district budget, of $434,352 for the continuing support and maintenance of the Fulton Public Library; to elect two members to the Board of Education for three-year terms; and the addition of a high school senior to the Board of Education as a non-voting, ex officio member.
Wednesday’s meeting on what might seem to many to be the dizzying vapor of complicated financial intangibles was preceded by a cogent reminder of just what all those numbers translate to in the real lives of district students.
Ms. Geri Geitner, director of Student Support Services, brought that message home with a presentation on Community School, a concept she described as “more than a place. It’s really a set of partnerships to provide services to students and families pre-K through 12. It is a district-wide model for service.”
Among the many services provided in what are extended-day and extended-year enrichment activities, are reading clubs, summer school programs, mental health and substance abuse clinics, young women’s empowerment programs helping “young women find their way” in decision-making and relationships, and a number of five-week- long activity modules. This year, those included an outdoor activity module wherein students made a waterproof lean-to and learned to mark trails, an international cooking module, a music composition module, a theatre module that focused on Shakespeare, a gardening module, and one called “Life in the 13069” that dealt with life skills such as banking, food shopping, food preparation, and health and wellness.
According to Ms. Geitner, the programs are growing, student interest is solid, and more and more agencies are looking to partner with Fulton schools as they see the success of Community School.
“We have a core group of students here in this program, and also at GRB After Hours,” she said, “who are coming all of the time. Our goal, for ourselves, is to expand and diversify the population that comes for Community School extended-day opportunities, because we want to reach as many students and families as possible.
“As grant opportunities come up for agencies,” she said, “they are looking for partners that already have a system and the capacity to sustain some of those programs, initiatives, and community needs that can be addressed through a school- based service. So, it’s really expanding and building upon itself organically because we have a structure in place, and we have space, and we have dedicated staff who are there and knowledgeable about what the community needs are and how to connect with our students. And that has helped us continue to expand.”
In other business, the board took up two matters concerning Oswego County BOCES. First, the board approved BOCES’ tentative 2019-2020 administrative budget of $7,921,915. And second, the board voted for the membership of the following to the Oswego County BOCES Board of Education: Kevin Dix, Vanessa Haskins, and Nicole Nadeau, all for three-year terms.
And finally, though the nature of the board is to look most often to the future, it didn’t forget about the past Wednesday night as James Simpson, former teacher, vice principal, and eventually principal of Fulton Junior High School, was recognized for his many years of service beginning in 1961. Recognized too for the instrumental role he played in the planning and design of the then new junior high, the resolution honoring him went on to say, “Be it therefore resolved, that the Board of Education of the Fulton City School District conveys sincere thanks and appreciation to James O. Simpson for his leadership and devotion to students and staff and approves a permanent recognition to be placed at the Fulton Junior High School in his honor.”