Fonda-Fultonville officials look for help to get more aid

FONDA – Officials from the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District are scheduled to meet today with state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk to get her help in securing more state aid for the school.

“We just need more money from the state,” said interim Superintendent Ray Colucciello. “There’s just no other way around it.”

Similar lobbying with Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara met with some success. Santabarbara wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding the importance of state aid and mentioned the district’s recent budget difficulties.

At the end of January, the Fonda-Fultonville school board laid off a business education teacher and the school psychologist as part of a plan to deal with a $500,000 mid-year budget shortfall.

Under Cuomo’s executive budget released in January, Fonda-Fultonville’s aid stands to increase roughly $611,000.

However, district Treasurer Carey Shultz said even if legislators adopt Cuomo’s proposal without change, it may not help enough.

Shultz said he plans to ask Tkaczyk to get the district an additional $400,000 to try and stabilize the budget for the 2013-14 school year.

Colucciello and Shultz said that is possible if the state abolishes the competitive grant funding portion of Cuomo’s proposal and instead rolls the funds into overall aid.

Cuomo, who requested $800 million for state aid usage, wants $250 million to go toward rewarding districts for academic performance and management efficiency.

Since 2010, state aid to the district has been reduced by almost $6 million due to Gap Elimination Adjustment. Costs for pensions and health insurance benefits also increased more than $2 million.

“Having those kind of funds ripped out of the budget makes it impossible to stabilize it,” Shultz said, noting the school’s staff has been reduced by 16.5 percent in that three-year time frame, and 25 percent in the last five years.

“The state is supposed to be an equal partner in education, 50-50,” Colucciello said. “The state now pays for about 39 percent, and the rest is on the backs of the local taxpayers.”

Colucciello said he is “cautiously optimistic.”

“In my experience, the governor proposes and the Legislature disposes,” he said.

The 2013-14 budget is still in the works, with members of the board waiting on the final numbers before completing it.