Assessment case leaves district repaying $132K

JOHNSTOWN – The Fonda-Fultonville Central School District’s budget woes continue after a November court decision determined the Walmart property in Johnstown was overtaxed, leading the district to have to pay back more than $130,000.

According to district Treasurer Carey Shultz, the school owes Walmart’s Property Tax Department about $132,000 after a settlement lowered Walmart’s 2012 taxes for its distribution center, located on 300 Enterprise Road, for the 2012 tax year and upcoming years.

The building is within the Fonda-Fultonville School District, allowing the district to receive school taxes from the property. According to Shultz, the school’s 2011-12 tax rate was $16.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, while the 2012-13 tax rate was $16.30 per $1,000. In total, according to Shultz, $847,199 in tax revenue was received from Walmart in 2012.

“The original assessment was $36,285,656 and is now being reduced to $30,611,136,” Shultz said.

The stipulation of settlement lowers the assessed value of the property between 2012 and 2017, reducing how much Walmart will have to pay in taxes. According to the settlement, between 2012 and 2017, the assessed value of the building would drop from $30 million to $23 million.

According to city Treasurer Michael Gifford, Fulton County and Johnstown also will be affected by the assessment.

However, due to the way the city and county accept taxes, based on the calender year, they could factor the settlement into their budgets.

“Had this thing not been settled in a timely enough fashion, we would be paying it back as well,” Gifford said.

According to Gifford, the city budgeted for the lowered amount due to having additional time.

However, FFCS, which asks for its taxes around June, could not, Gifford said. Thus, the district must give back a portion of its revenue.

According to Shultz and Interim Superintendent Ray Colucciello, the repayment greatly affects the 2013-14 school budget process.

According to them, the money the district will pay back amounts to about 1.5 percent of the budget, which Colucciello said equals about two teaching positions.

“Any loss of aid or expense not related to student learning is a blow to the district,” Shultz said.

According to Colucciello, this would not be a major problem in a district that has funds for paying back revenue for situations like this, but FFCS is not in that position.

“There’s no money in the bank or fund balance,” Colucciello said.

Colucciello said further cuts to the school would be extremely difficult, saying the school has cut down the budget beyond “down to the bone.”

“We’re past the bone, we are at the marrow stage,” Colucciello said.

Colucciello said the district has not paid the money back. The district made an agreement with Walmart to repay the money between July and Aug. 15, he said.