To the credit of Fonda-Fultonville Central School District administrators and the Board of Education, the district this week found a way to come up with a second budget proposal whose tax increase stays within the state-imposed cap without decimating programs and personnel.
The proposal, which will go to voters in June, would increase the tax levy by 3.5 percent, but the increase is down considerably from the nearly 8 percent levy hike included in the district's first budget proposal. Voters rejected the first budget, whose levy increase exceeded the tax cap.
When district officials proposed the 8 percent tax increase, they warned of potentially devastating budget reductions if voters rejected it. We've heard dire budget warnings from public officials before. Often, the situation isn't as severe as advertised. Usually, when there's a will to solve a public budget crisis, there's a way to fix it without crippling taxpayers or services. It's easier for public officials to go to the taxpayer well than to perform strategic surgery on a budget.
At Fonda-Fultonville, officials arrived at the 3.5 percent tax increase by cutting modified sports programs, consolidating roles to fill a buildings-and-grounds supervisor position, using $100,000 of the district's debt-service money and hiring someone from within the district to temporarily serve as superintendent for a year after the current superintendent leaves this year. The cuts won't be easy and the superintendent situation is less-than desireable, but the plan is manageable.
We don't know whether voters will approve the newly proposed school budget, but district officials have shown they can do the work to get the tax increase to a reasonable level without too many painful sacrifices.