FULTON, NY – The $71,992,850 budget for the 2018-2019 school year was unanimously approved by the Fulton City School District Board of Education at Thursday’s (April 19) meeting.
With an increase of 1.71 percent from the current school year’s budget, several changes were made in effort to reduce the gap between expenditures and revenues.
Seven currently staffed secondary level full-time employment positions will be laid off with the addition of one other full-time employment position as an unfilled retirement. Funds were cut from summer cleaning at a rate of $37,500 as well as $60,000 from transportation.
Additionally, the district will seek the maximum allowable tax cap increase at 2.02 percent.
However, due to a negative tax cap last year costing the district $357,143 in tax revenue, Superintendent Brian Pulvino said taxpayers can expect to see taxes remain lower than the previous year.
“Last year we had a negative tax cap. We had a million dollars of debt service we paid back and because we paid it back the formula actually resulted in a negative 1.7 percent tax cap. This year, the result was that we were able to go to the allowable limit. You’ll actually see, your taxes in 2016-2017 will be higher than they will be in 2018-2019,” Pulvino explained.
A district tax levy impact report showed the 2016-2017 tax rate of $2,772.60 based on $100,000 assessed value. Using the 2.02 percent tax cap, the tax rate for the same assessed value will total $2,714.70 for 2018-2019 – a $53.70 increase over the 2017-2018 tax rate, but remaining lower than the year prior.
Despite attempts to reduce the gap, district officials passed the 2018-2019 budget using over one million dollars in reserves and fund balance.
“We’re continuing our programming, we kept the impacts as far away from kids as possible. In that regard, I guess that makes it a good budget. We still have over one million dollars that we’re using from fund balance and reserves. We can’t continue to do that, but we did that to ensure we didn’t impact the kids and programs,” Pulvino said.
Pulvino said this budget is, “a story of decreasing enrollment over time, not fully funding schools, and bringing attention to the fact that we are the third poorest school district in the two-county area.”
Correspondence from the New York State School Boards Association showed Fulton City School District with a combined wealth ratio of 0.342 percent, compared to a relatively equal combined wealth ratio of 0.350 percent in 2008 which Pulvino referred to as “quite powerful.”
“Right there’s a 10 year snapshot to show we have been a poor district,” Pulvino said. “I think sometimes we don’t always draw attention to that and it contributes to some of the challenges that we have that this board has been working on for decades, it’s not a new problem.”
The report lists FCSD as the third poorest school district in the region, following Syracuse City School District and a neighboring Oswego County school district, Hannibal Central.
Another NYSSBA report showed over $7 million that FCSD has not received in foundation aid.
A drop in more than 300 students from the FCSD from 2007 to the current school year shows the decreasing trend in enrollment with projected numbers showing that continuation as G. Ray Bodley High School anticipates enrollment dropping below 1,000 students within the next five years.
Pairing these circumstances together, district officials emphasized their ongoing commitment to continue looking for ways to reduce expenditures and increase revenues.
One such attempt to increase revenues is leasing building space throughout the district.
Plans are underway to lease several spaces in Fulton to CiTi Boces, including the first floor of the Fulton Education Center as well as additional classrooms in Volney Elementary.
The central office rooms currently located at the Education Center will move primarily to the Fulton Junior High and also smaller spaces at G. Ray Bodley High School and Volney Elementary.
Anticipated revenues for the leases total over $200,000.
“We are looking at ways to maximize space within our district, I think that’s not only being fiscally responsible but offering greater opportunities to our students as well as students throughout the county,” Pulvino said.
A public hearing for the proposed 2018-2019 budget will be held on Wednesday, May 2 at the Fulton Education Center located at 167 S. Fourth St. beginning at 7 p.m.
Board president, David Cordone emphasizes the communication between district officials and the community.
“All of that information is a lot to take in, but you can see why things are the way they are. We’re talking class sizes at the high school now and you see the loss of positions there, and it has a domino effect so it’s really how to we communicate that to our kids and community members. We’ve got the budget in place, now we have to tell the rest of the story,” he said.
Eligible voters within the district can vote on the proposed budget on Tuesday, May 15 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Fulton War Memorial located at 609 West Broadway.
Also on the ballot will be a resolution for the purchase of two transportation vans and the opportunity to vote for three open board of education seats of which candidate petitions are due on Wednesday, April 25.