The Fonda-Fultonville Central School District's recent financial problems should serve as a warning to local residents and state officials.
Residents must be aware of their school districts' budget difficulties, and the state must provide more mandate relief.
Patrick Michel, the interim superintendent at the school district, announced Monday the district will make up to $500,000 in spending cuts to build up its depleted fund balance.
An audit showed the district's undesignated fund balance was expended because of unexpected health-insurance expenses and reductions in state building aid.
Without spending cuts, the district would face a $1.4 million budget gap for 2013-14, requiring the tax levy to go up about 20 percent.
It's unlikely voters in that school district, or any other, would approve such a tremendous increase in the tax levy.
However, residents have an opportunity to be involved in deciding where to cut spending.
Michel said midyear budget and transportation committees will be set up, and the district is looking for community volunteers to serve on them. The committees will determine cuts to help build up the fund balance.
This is a good chance for residents to get involved before cuts are made to programs that matter to them.
Local residents in every school district should be keeping an eye on their district's finances and trying to get involved as much as possible. Coming up with suggestions on where a school district can save money is better than waiting to complain when cuts are proposed. Too often, people only get involved with a district's budget process after cuts are proposed to programs they appreciate. By then, it's too late in the game to help make the hard choices about where to cut.
People should not wait until the spring to get involved when a budget is proposed by their local school district. They can contact their local Board of Education now and find out how the finances look for the next school year and when the planning for the next school budget will begin.
Also, local residents should contact state representatives - even newly elected ones - and remind them Albany owes local municipalities more mandate relief.
Given the state's tax-levy cap and the amount of budgeting state regulations effectively control, there are few areas where school boards can cut costs.
Without mandate relief, more school districts may have to cut good programs, including sports and other extracurricular activities.
We advise people to get involved now before it's too late.