Fulton School Budget Holds Spending Line, Cuts 18 Jobs

Fulton’s school budget picture looks a whole lot better than it did a week ago, though it will take as many as 18 lost jobs to do it.

The Board of Education Tuesday night reviewed the first official draft of the budget for 2010-2011. It is the product of months of work, including several public work sessions by a committee of administrators, board members and members of the public.

The last time that committee met, the budget stood as much as $2.5 million out of balance, with a tax levy increase of 13.4%.

Since then, the district decided to recommend 10 more job losses, on top of the 8 cuts already planned. And officials decided to pump $600,000 of undesignated reserves into the budget.

The bottom line? Spending increases by about one half of one percent, and the tax levy increases by 3.8%.  The budget must be approved before the statewide school budget voting day in mid-May.

“I think this is a very responsible budget,” said board vice president Robbin Griffin. “It looks a lot better than it did last week,” agreed board member Brian Hotaling.

The ten new jobs to be lost are:

4 elementary teachers who provide academic intervention services for math. Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch believes the teachers involved will fill elementary openings created by retirements;

An academic intervention services math teacher at the Junior High, who Lynch said will have the seniority to bump a lower-ranking math teacher;

A high school technology teacher. Two are retiring this year and only one will be replaced;

A high school English teacher, who is retiring and will not be replaced;

A high school math teacher, a high school social studies teacher and a high school science teacher, each of whom may bump a teacher of lower seniority or slide into spots created by retirements.

“We will have to do more with less,” Lynch said.

He noted that this year’s budget draft contains $2.7 million in cuts to staffing and last year’s budget cut staffing by $1 million.

The $600,000 to be drawn from the district’s undesignated reserve fund will leave it with $1.7 million. Fulton may need much of that next year, when school budgets are expected to be even worse than this year.

The staff cuts and reserve fund money help to fill the gap created by Gov. Paterson’s plan to help fill a $9 billion deficit in the upcoming state budget. Every state agency is being cut. Schools are losing up to 5% of their state aid. That loss blew a $1.7 million hole in the Fulton school budget.

Meantime, the board also ratified a new contract for Lynch through June of 2013. Board member Rosemary Occhino noted that Lynch turned down a pay raise for the 2010-11 school year.

“I think it sends a powerful message,” she said.