A long list of cuts will affect nearly every student in the Fulton school district next year, leave many teachers and staff without jobs and reduce the district’s spending from last year. There’s only one thing those cuts won’t do: Balance Fulton’s budget.
Superintendent Bill Lynch outlined $1.6 million in proposed cuts in the first draft of Fulton’s budget for the 2011 – 2012 school year Tuesday night. He had an unusually large audience because the union representing teachers urged members to come to the meeting to hear the details for themselves. Leaders of the school’s various unions had already received a briefing, Lynch said.
(See the documents provided at the board meeting below. Click on each one to see a full-sized version.)
Lynch said that as soon as the district learned that it would be absorbing a $2.2 million cut in education aid in Governor Cuomo’s budget, he and his administrative team began working on ways to cut spending. The district also has to absorb a large increase in its share of staff retirement costs along with increases in the costs of health benefits, salaries and other routine costs. It will be the third year in a row of budget cuts for the district, and by far, the largest and most damaging set of cuts.
“The program we have in place is the program we should have,” Lynch said. “We’ve taken decades to build it and now we have to start unpacking.”
On his list of proposed cuts:
The elimination of the successful advisory program at the high school, which is intended to connect each student more deeply to resources and programs at school by giving them time with a particular teacher each day of 9th, 10th and 11th grade;
Abolishing five positions that will open because of retirements, including two elementary teaching positions, a special education position, an English teacher and a music teacher. Four other positions open due to retirement would be filled, with the district achieving some savings from the lower-cost new teacher;
Eliminating a teacher-on-special-assignment who teaches the Alternative Education class at the Education Center for students who cannot be in a regular school environment;
Cutting all foreign language classes for 7th graders;
Cutting one teacher each from English, math, science and social studies at the high school;
Reducing elementary computer teaching positions;
Cutting $55,000 from the information technology department budget, $65,000 from substitute teaching funds, $100,000 from teacher aides by cutting an average of one aide per elementary school, $50,000 from athletics, $25,000 from extra-curricular and co-curricular programs, ending the public relations contract with BOCES and more.
That list of cuts adds up to about $1.6 million in savings. In addition, the district would use up to $2 million of its $2.4 million rainy-day reserve fund and would bring in an extra $750,000 from a projected 4% increase in the tax levy.
That makes about $4.4 million in revenue generated by cuts, reserves and taxes — the only three places the district can go to get money.
It’s not enough.
There’s still a $1.13 million gap in the first draft of the budget. If all employees agreed to no pay increase next school year, that would cut the gap in half but would not fill it. (Three unions, including the teachers’ union, have worked all year without a contract. All other union contracts expire at the end of this school year.)
The $1.13 million gap would require a 10% tax increase. “That’s not in the cards,” said Lynch.
The proposals outlined Tuesday are only in draft form and programs or jobs identified for cuts now could be saved later, while programs and jobs not mentioned in the first draft can be added for elimination later.
The board reviews its second draft of the budget in two weeks and meets next Tuesday with its community budget committee to continue reviewing ideas for cutbacks.
“The program we have in place is a solid program,” said Lynch. “We don’t have the revenue we need to maintain the program.”