District chief touts ‘stringent’ approach in plan

FONDA – A low turnout at the 2013-14 budget hearing for the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District on Monday led to few questions from members of the public.

However, Kathleen Georgia of Tribes Hill asked how district residents are supposed to feel confident about voting for the spending plan after the mid-year budget cuts.

“I don’t want to be hit with any surprises next year,” she said.

In December, the board had to make midyear budget cuts because the district found a $500,000 budget shortfall as a result of state aid cuts, lower enrollment and unexpected costs. The savings included cutting spring sports to save $60,000, switching to a Medicare Advantage plan to save $230,000, and closing down the pool to save $30,000.

Interim Superintendent Ray Colucciello told Georgia the budget was made with a “stringent approach to expenditures,” such as not budgeting for $220,000 in savings that could be realized if efforts to alter retired employee health insurance plans are successful.

A 4.5 percent tax-levy increase is in the proposed $24.36 million 2013-14 budget adopted April 24. This school year’s budget totaled $23.87 million, according to information from the district,

Colucciello said the tax cap was set at roughly 7.9 percent, but the Board of Education opted not go higher than 4.5 percent. The budget also will use no money from the fund balance.

Colucciello called the budget a step towards fiscal stability.

“The culture of spending is gone,” Colucciello said. “The culture of saving has arrived.”

Information provided by the district showed raising the tax levy by 4.5 percent would add $52,000 to the district’s surplus funds, which have been depleted in recent years.

In addition to the midyear budget cuts, Colucciello said, there is a requirement that for any purchase, Colucciello and District Treasurer Carey Shultz both have to sign off on invoices before funds can be spent.

Residents of the district will vote on the budget May 21 from noon to 9 p.m. at the high school.