Report: Local school districts ‘susceptible to fiscal stress’

A couple of local schools are among those in the state that are “susceptible to fiscal stress,” according to research done by the state Comptroller’s Office.

According to a report issued Thursday, the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District and the Amsterdam City School District were both listed as susceptible to fiscal stress.

The report said 87 school districts – 13 percent of school districts statewide – have been designated as fiscally stressed under State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System.

According to the report, the comptroller’s office looked at a variety of financial information – such as year-end fund balance – to create an overall fiscal stress score, which classifies whether a district is in “significant fiscal stress,” in “moderate fiscal stress,” as “susceptible to fiscal stress,” or “no designation.”

The Fonda-Fultonville school district received a score of 41.7 percent, while the Amsterdam school district was give a score of 28.3 percent.

“Unfortunately, reductions in state aid, a cap on local revenue and decreased rainy day funds are creating financial challenges that more and more school districts are having trouble overcoming,” DiNapoli said in a news release. “My office’s fiscal stress scores highlight the need for school district officials to manage their finances carefully with an eye towards long-range planning and how they can operate more efficiently.”

According to Fonda-Fultonville School District Treasurer Carey Shultz, the risk of fiscal stress comes from increase costs and the shrinking amount of aid available to school districts from the state.

“It makes it difficult,” Shultz said. “You are kind of caught in this corner making a budget.”

Shultz said the district continues to save money and is nowhere near becoming insolvent.

However, Shultz said this issue is not just a F-FCS problem.

“Any municipality is susceptible in these times,” Shultz said.

Shultz said the review was based on the 2011-12 school year.

In December 2012, the Board of Education at F-FCS 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.

In May, voters in the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District approved the 2013-14 budget of $24.36 million. The budget carried a 4.5 percent tax-levy increase. It passed in a vote of 431-372.