Fulton Schools Begin to Look at Realignment as Big Deficits Loom

This chart, produced by the district's consultant, shows the growing gap between expenses (in blue) and revenues from taxes and state aid (in red) projected for the next five school years.
This chart, produced by the district's consultant, shows the growing gap between expenses (in blue) and revenues from taxes and state aid (in red) projected for the next five school years.

Fulton school district leaders may not know what to do yet about its future financial uncertainty, but they now know what will happen if they do nothing.

A consultant hired by the district to outline options for the future showed his first piece of work Tuesday night: a chart that showed the high cost of standing still.

Dan Porter, retired Superintendent of Schools in Chittenango, said a five year projection of expenses and revenues shows an ever-widening gap between the two. By the fifth year, the deficit approaches $6 million on a $68 million budget.

Porter said his assumptions took into account no major change in district operations, small increases in salaries each year, no or very small increases in state aid, and the effects of the 2% property tax levy cap, which he said only compounds the inequality of the state’s funding system for small and poor schools.

He said the only thing he can guarantee about his financial assumptions is that they will be proven wrong. But he said they can serve as a guide to the overall issue of the growing gap between income and spending.

“You’re looking at a gap and you’ve got to do something,” he said.

Porter said there were five courses of action the district could take:

  • Wait, and hope the financial situation improves;
  • Cut jobs and increase class sizes to save money;
  • Cut programs;
  • Cut services;
  • Look at the district’s operations.

He said he was only asked to look at the first and last options on that list.

The chart should rule out the first option, he indicated. “You may need to do something now, instead of getting kicked in the head” later, he said.

“I’d rather have control of that change than just letting it happen to me,” said Board of Education President Robbin Griffin.

In January, he plans to show the board his thoughts on the district’s operations. “Is there a different way you could align to save money,” he asked. But he warned board members that realignment — moving grades or closing buildings — can have unintended consequences.