FONDA - In the face of last week's decisive defeat of a proposed budget for 2012-13 that would have raised the tax levy by nearly 8 percent, members of the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Board of Education drafted a new plan that would increase the levy by 3.5 percent and still retain kindergarten and most interscholastic sports.
The proposed spending plan, which will go before voters in June, is $23.87 million, down from the $24.19 million proposal voted down 787-596 on May 15.
Because the tax-levy increase in the first proposal exceeded the district's 4.67 percent tax-levy cap set by the state, it needed to be approved by 60 percent of voters.
Members of the Fonda-Fultonville school board gather around district Treasurer Carey Schultz during Tuesday’s special meeting.
The Leader-Herald/John R. Becker
The new proposal is nearly $2 million less than the $25.6 million budget in place for this school year and falls within the tax cap.
Most of the savings in the proposed budget would come from three areas:
A $75,000 reduction in the sports budget after eliminating modified sports programs except boys and girls soccer. The middle-school soccer program would stay in place because the district already cut the junior-varsity soccer teams.
A $100,000 reduction by not filling the supervisor of buildings and ground position, a role District Superintendent James D. Hoffman assumed in October. Building principals would assume those roles beginning in July.
Using $100,000 of the district's debt-service money to help balance the budget.
In addition, the board would suspend its search for an interim superintendent to replace Hoffman, who will leave June 30 to take the same position in the Averill Park Central School district in Rensselaer County.
Instead, the board would hire someone from within the district to be an interim superintendent. That is expected to save the district between $50,000 and $100,000, according to district Treasurer Carey Schultz.
Many of the ideas for reducing the budget came from the administrators, who brainstormed before the meeting.
"We were given some great ideas," board President Linda Wszolek said.
Wszolek also thanked the administrators, teachers and support staff for agreeing to freeze their salaries for the coming year.
The proposed 3.5 percent increase in the tax levy would still be the largest among local school districts. Broadalbin-Perth district residents approved a budget that called for a 3.3 percent hike in the tax levy. Oppenheim-Ephratah district residents, by a 3-1 margin, voted against a 4.5 percent tax-levy increase that also exceeded the tax cap.
Fonda-Fultonville board members said the new budget is responsive to the community.
"The message we got this year is that we have to look at the tolerance level of our community," board member Carole DeBonte said. "Do I think it's a great budget? No, but I'm comfortable with 3.5 percent."
"We listened to what the people said, and we adjusted our budget accordingly," board Vice President Timothy Wendell said.
Hoffman said the new spending plan is not ideal, but will work.
"I'm a lot more comfortable than I would be," he said. "Would I rather have had the other budget? Yes, I would. Do I think this will still properly serve the students and the community? Yes, I do."
John R. Becker covers Montgomery County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.