Fulton Schools’ Federal Stimulus Funds Saved Nearly 60 Jobs

More than $3.3 million in federal stimulus funds has poured into the Fulton City School District this year. The district says that money either preserved or created more than 61 jobs this year.

Most of the money the district received in federal stimulus funds — $2.6 million — preserved jobs by making up for the exact same amount of money cut by the state in aid to the district. The district, using the federal government’s method of counting, said that money alone saved 49.3 jobs and created two more. That pile of money had to be used only to save jobs from being cut or to create jobs.

The rest of the federal money came as part of various federally funded programs and were used to pay 10.3 salaries.

District officials admit that not all the jobs listed as saved by stimulus funds would have been lost without them. “If we wree going to face a $2.7 million deficit,” the district’s Director of Finance, Kathy Nichols, said, “we would not have solely looked at (cutting) positions.”

The stimulus funding runs out after the next budget year, 2010-11.

“No one’s talking about what happens after” stimulus funding runs out, said Board of Education member Robbin Griffin. “We’re in a very precarious position in building a budget without direction.”

Districts have been told to expect, at best, two years of state aid frozen at current levels. The Legislature and Governor are haggling even now about mid-year cuts to education aid. And districts face sharply higher costs for its share of its employees’ retirement fund because the fund’s investments have done poorly and local governments will have to make up the difference.

Superintendent Bill Lynch said the district has cut more than $100,000 in administrative salaries since July. He said the district has also saved money by reorganizing the buildings and grounds department, has cut its costs for some BOCES programs, and has cut its medical benefits cost by $200,000.

The district has built a fund balance that it can tap into to keep down some tax increases, planning for the next two lean years.