Fulton School Budget Process Begins Saturday

The public job of putting together a school budget for the 2011-12 year begins Saturday morning over pastries and coffee for the Fulton Board of Education.

The board holds a special meeting beginning at 8:30 a.m. at G. Ray Bodley High School the Fulton Education Center.

The session will allow board members to begin figuring out their priorities for the upcoming budget, and the process they want to use to arrive at a decision.

In the past, the district has put together a special budget committee made up of board members, administrators and several members of the public.  The group met every other week for several months to review district spending, policies. staffing, and initiatives.

The information helped board members give guidance to administrators as they prepared drafts of the spending plan.

It’s going to be another difficult year for school budgets across Upstate New York.  The state will need to cut at least $10 billion from its budget.  Last year’s $9 billion cut was accomplished, in part, by implementing across-the-board cuts in state aid.

Districts that depend on state aid, such as Fulton, suffered disproportionately from the cutbacks.

Local governments and schools also faced a sharp increase in their mandatory contributions to the state retirement systems.  They have to fill any gaps created by losses in the state’s investments.

In reaction to the loss of aid and higher retirement costs, the district laid off staff and teachers, cutting into academic programs, particularly at the high school level.

District officials have warned that the 2011-12 budget will be even more difficult and damaging than the current one.

The budget must be in place by mid-April, in time for the statewide vote on school budgets in May.

[The location of the meeting changed after our story was published, due to a planned power outage that will affect the high school.]