FFCS faces possible $1M shortfall next year

FONDA – Fonda-Fultonville Central School officials announced Monday night the 2013-14 budget projections show a possible $750,000 to $1 million budget gap.

District Treasurer Carey Shultz said while the budget gap exists, that could change because tax levy estimates are still up in the air.

Shultz said hopefully any change will decrease the gap and allow for an easier budgeting process.

Compared to the current budget, the projected total budget increases by $1.076 million, rising from 2012-13’s $23.8 million to $24.95 million. According to Shultz, this equals to a 4.51 percent increase to the budget. The vast majority of that increase is due to benefits, he said.

However, none of those numbers include potential savings from switches in health insurance, a potential change in transportation vendors or retirements.

Shultz said the health insurance switch is being discussed in arbitration, but a switch for eligible retirees to a Medicare Advantage Plan could save roughly $400,000.

“I don’t know where it’s going to go,” Shultz said. “I’m being cautious; I don’t want to book something I don’t know.”

Retirement also could be a factor in the budget.

According to Fonda-Fultonville Central School Superintendent Ray Colucciello, some teachers have discussed retiring, though their positions may need to be filled.

Colucciello said a 1-percent tax increase would bring in about $94,000.

“To amplify the gap, think about it in terms of closing the gap with taxes,” he said.

Colucciello also said the district could raise taxes by up to 8.83 percent and within the state’s tax-levy cap.

“We’re obviously not looking at that,” Colucciello said.

How much state aid the district will receive in the state’s budget is another factor.

Shultz said under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget, the district was expected to get $611,000 in additional aid.

However, Shultz received notice the amount of aid would be $138,000 less, due to the state Education Department exercising legislation to reset the interest rate used to calculate building aid payments once a decade.

Another potential issue arose with the Walmart reassesment.

According to 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.

Shultz previously said the original assessment was about $36.29 million, which was reduced to about $30.61 million for 2012.

When asked by parents at the meeting Monday if the company would forgive what the district owes, Shultz said that would not happen. Shultz said an agreement was made to pay the assesment dues back by August.