Fonda-Fultonville eyes tax-hike options

FONDA – The Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Board of Education on Monday adopted a nearly $24.36 million budget for 2013-14, which calls for a 2 percent increase in spending.

The board narrowed the possible tax-levy increase to either 4.5 percent or 4.75 percent but did not finalize the figure Monday.

Interim Superintendent Ray Colucciello said another vote on the tax-levy increase will take place Wednesday during a special meeting when the board votes on BOCES-related items.

A handout provided by the district at Monday’s meeting showed the levy increase will depend on the amount set aside in reserve. If the levy is raised by 4.75 percent, $76,000 would be added to the fund balance, while raising the levy 4.5 percent would add $52,000.

District Treasurer Carey Shultz said the current fund balance is about $350,000, but the district’s goal is to save $500,000 in the fund balance by year’s end.

Vice President Timothy Wendell said board members need to further discuss the tax-levy increase, though it wasn’t clear why that discussion didn’t take place at Monday’s meeting.

“It really isn’t our plan to use any of that this year,” Board of Education President Linda Wszolek said of the increase.

Shultz later said the board members were waiting for additional staffing and contractual items to be discussed before making the levy decision.

This year’s budget totaled $23.87 million, so the proposal for 2013-14 calls for a spending increase of $485,000.

Shultz said nearly 80 percent of the increase represents retirement and health benefits for district employees.

During the meeting, Wszolek led a brief conversation about which tax-levy increase to adopt, stating she would prefer the 4.5 percent increase.

Wendell agreed but noted the district’s ongoing financial trouble, which forced midyear cuts.

“I don’t want to see us in the same position in the future,” Wendell said.

At a previous Board of Education meeting, a tax-levy increase of 4.95 percent had been proposed. The state-imposed tax cap formula would have allowed the district to raise the levy as much as 8.3 percent.

State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, attended the meeting and was thanked by the board for her advocacy in securing additional state aid for the district.

“Thankfully, the Legislature and governor did agree to put more money in, and I am glad you are able to put some money back, but we know this is just the first step,” Tkaczyk said. “We are not done. There is still going to be challenges, but we will keep working on it.”

Wszolek said after the meeting she is pleased the district could add some programs and maintain what it already has rather than make the tough cuts it had in the past.

“Thanks to the effort of our senator, we were able to get extra money into our budget,” Wszolek said. “This is the first year in many years we haven’t had to put out any layoff slips. That’s a huge plus for our community, and that’s really where our heart is.”

The district received a $600,000 increase in education aid under the adopted state budget, which covered an anticipated $238,000 shortfall.

The proposed budget includes an expenditure of $132,500 to pay off the court-ordered repayment of taxes to the Walmart Distribution Center after its property assessment was reduced.

The budget also calls for the hiring of two Academic Intervention Services teachers – one full-time and one part-time – at the elementary school. The district also will include modified sports in the budget, at a cost of $41,500, but varsity golf and bowling will not be included.

Athletic Director Eric Wilson said $8,600 would be needed to keep the golf and bowling programs active, but he thinks the funds can be raised by the district’s booster club.

He said those sports were cut from the budget because the cuts would affect the smallest number of students.

“The fact that we are confident that we might be able to keep these sports is a good thing, because these are lifelong sports and that is important to our kids,” Wszolek said.

The district also opted to spend $35,000 in reorganizing its Informational Technology Department. It includes a nanotechnology course at the high school; science, technology, engineering and mathematics programming at the elementary school, and a Mandarin Chinese language course at the middle school that likely will be taught online via distance learning.

A public hearing on the proposed 2013-14 budget will take place at 7 p.m. May 13. District residents will vote on the budget and school board elections from noon to 9 p.m. May 21.

Levi Pascher can be reached by email at