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Fulton Schools’ Budget Approved; It Cuts 20 Jobs, Spends a Little Less, Taxes a Little More

Fulton Board of Education members approved a budget for 2011-12 Tuesday night that raises taxes about 3.5% while cutting spending, eliminating more than 20 positions and reducing two academic programs praised for keeping students in school.

The $60.2 million proposal spends $450,000 less than the current budget and, when spending for construction projects is factored out (because the money is reimbursed by the state, dollar for dollar, the next year), is almost the same amount the district spent two years ago.

“The problem we face is a revenue problem,” said Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch. “It’s not a spending problem.”

In addition to the proposed tax increase, the district will nearly drain its designated reserve fund, using $2 million to lower the need for higher taxes. In addition, revenues will end from the federal stimulus program that were use to save teaching jobs during the recession.

The tax hike and heavy use of reserves are needed because the state has cut, for the second year in a row, the aid it gives to school districts. Districts like Fulton, which are low in property wealth and have a larger-than-average number of students who require expensive special services, suffered larger cuts than districts that are better able to cope with or rely far less on state aid.

Fulton receives about 63% of its revenue from the state.

Among the more than $2 million in budget cuts, the district proposes eliminating five positions due to retirement, in music, special education, English and two in elementary education. Occupied positions to be eliminated include one each in high school math, science, social studies and English; 2.4 foreign language positions; 4 computer teaching assistants and special education teaching assistants. Two administrators will be eliminated, including a teacher-on-special-assignment administrative position that has been responsible for the district’s successful alternative education program.

Over the last three years, the district has eliminated more than 50 positions.

All departments have cut their operating budgets as well.

Along with the damage being done to the alternative education program, which works with students in a special program at the Education Center when those students are not able to work effectively or safely in regular school buildings, the budget eliminates funding for the high school’s Advisory program. The program assigned each student to a teacher who would be with that student each day for all four years of high school to help connect that student to resources and people who can help them learn.

Both programs won praise from students who said it kept them from dropping out of school and the district’s data supported the claim.

Lynch noted that the proposed budget is $1.5 million lower than the state limit on a contingency budget. If the budget is not approved after three votes, the board must adopt a contingency budget. Lynch noted that it was unlikely the board would raise spending in a contingency budget after several failed votes.

The district will hold a public hearing on the budget May 4, prior to the statewide school budget voting day on May 17.

“It’s not where we wanted to be,” said board member Robert Ireland of the budget. “But it’s where we had to go.”

8 Comments

  1. Fulton has not changed. Keep raising taxes and drive the people out. Fulton looks like a dump, and all the new taxes only makes businesses want to move elsewhere. Glad I moved away.

  2. Sorry Mr. Lynch, it is most certainly a spending problem. Tax increases on the people of this State at any level should be off the table indefinitely until some fiscal sanity is used during the budgeting process. There is a reason people leave NY in droves, and it isn’t due to them being under-taxed.

  3. I hope our kid’s will continue to want to come to School, Because for some with out a teacher or a sport a GED will be ok for them. Cause they can get into college with out a High School diploma and with a GED. At the board meeting you basically said to the kids to bad, This is how it is and your raising our tax’s still. If some of our students weren’t considered special needs cause the state wants them to be, Maybe we could get out out that category. Lowering scores to meet a state quota is crap. Students sitting in AIS because their scores were changed.

  4. It’s all a game. They put out a budget for us to vote on and we reject it. Then they put out another one with less of a tax increase and we accept it when this is the one they could have come up with the first time. Stop the games and start realizing that we can’t afford any tax increase at all. There is to much waste and fat in the budget. We have hundreds less students in the district than when I was in school and we have twice as many teachers and admin. why ? It has to stop.

  5. The only winners in this budget are the tenured teachers and administrators who will receive their increased salaries and benefits… but we all know “it’s for the kids.”

    Give us a break Bill and stop with the B.S. The arrogant inbred Fulton school board and administration just voted for themselves again… at a time when area residents are hurting financially.

    We hear the same story every year at budget time… woe is me, no where to cut, state mandates you know. But somehow we have been able to get along just fine without those 50 employees who, three years ago, we couldn’t live without. Wes Belcher said it best in the Valley News… SHOW US THE FACTS! What we would see is that increased salaries and benefits for teachers and staff is the budget driver… not the kids. Sorry, but increased pay and benefits doesn’t make them better teachers and administrators.

    NY politicians elected by, and beholding to, the teacher’s union have created a nightmare for tax payers. We have no input in local school budgets and no choice but to eat the cost if we want to live here.

  6. Once again the district uses smoke and mirrors to try to fool the public. The two “administrators” that were cut is just one example. First, the teacher on assignment is NOT an administrator and the other one’s salary was not even in the budget to begin with – she was paid through a federal grant. Yes the cuts should have started at the top with the administrative positions, like the one that was created for a former board member’s wife at more than $80,000/year. How about eliminating the “bonuses” paid to administrators on top of their already outrageous salaries. Unfortunately the ones making the decisions on the tax increases and job and program elimination are the very ones who should be cut!

  7. The districts own data shows class sizes below what the state considers to be standard small classes. There are fewer students in the district (a trend seen all over the state) yet we continue to mantain the same number of schools that accomidated more students 20 years ago. And every one of these building has had classroom additions further increasing the capacity for students at each building. We need a breakdown of the costs of each building, then we need a a comprehensive approach to fill out the buildings to maximize student enrollment per each class. Any bussiness (like OH I DON’T KNOW SAY BIRDSEYE FOR EXAMPLE) would evaluate where they could achieve the most production at the best cost and then close the place or places that aren’t cost effective. We need to do the same, so instead of all the classes at every building having 19, 18 or 17 kids per class we could have 21, 22 or 23 kids per class. We wouldn’t have to lay off teachers we could simply move the current ones around and NOT HIRE any new ones. And we have more than enough teacher aides and monitors in the district to help with the larger class sizes. We would additionally need one less nurse, nurse aide, less gym teachers, one less art teachers, one less music teachers, less clerical, less janitors, less home school liason, less school psychologist and one less principle. The current Ed Center was deemed unfit for students years ago why don’t we simply down size to 3 elementary schools and repurpose one of those building as the new Ed Center and sell the old one putting some revenue back in the school coffers and saving a bundle over the next few years. The company that reworked Oak Street School is big on these projects and are doing a number of these in many other districts. Bottom line is we simply have to do more with less and hold the line on taxes just like the state is starting to do. Whether we start talks about sharing some services with the city or other districts we must look at every possible way to reduce our operating costs.

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