Fulton Schools About to Begin Work on the Next Budget

The public vote on next year’s school budget is more than half a year away, but the Fulton City School District is gearing up to begin building a budget that officials admit will probably be more difficult than the last one.

The work begins a week from Saturday, when Board of Education members hold a Saturday morning workshop.  The goal, said Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch, is to develop the parameters for the 2011-12 budget.

The district doesn’t know much yet about how much state aid will be available for the budget, but with the state facing another estimated $9 billion budget shortfall next year, districts think that keeping their aid level with this year is probably the best they can hope for, Lynch said.

“It’s gonna be worse; that shouldn’t be a surprise,” said board President Robbin Griffin.

State lawmakers may also approve a cap on the tax increases local governments and school districts can pass on to taxpayers.  Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has said he supports a cap of as low as 2%.  At the same time, Cuomo has said that high-need districts like Fulton should get more state aid than districts with high property wealth.

Because of cuts in state aid, the district chopped positions from the budget that voters approved last Spring.  Money from the federal job stimulus program kept some other jobs, but that money is running out.

There might even be a mid-year cut in aid to schools this year, because the state budget is out of balance by at least $350 million.

Lynch reviewed for board members Tuesday night the process the district will use to build its budget.  The process includes creating a budget committee that consists of board members, administrators and some members of the public.

The committee met every other week for several months to go into detail on particular aspects of the district’s spending and educational program.

The completed budget goes before voters on the statewide school budget voting day in May.  Last year’s budget failed on the first vote but succeeded on the second vote.

Griffin, a longtime member of the Board of Education, expects the 2011-12 budget to be “one of the most difficult processes I’ve ever faced, in my experience.”