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FF budget stays within tax levy cap

FONDA — The Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Board of Education adopted a proposed $29,847,711 million budget for the 2020-21 school year at its May 18 meeting. The proposed budget balances a $2 million gap with cuts and the use of fund balance, while staying within the tax levy limit and preserving academic programs.

The budget vote and board election will be conducted by absentee ballot only because of the COVID-19 public health crisis. Ballots are being mailed to qualified voters. Completed ballots must be returned to the district no later than 5 p.m. on June 9. Voters may either mail completed ballots in the prepaid-postage envelope or deliver them to the drop box in front of the district office, 112 Old Johnstown Road, Fonda, NY 12068.

The proposed budget was developed against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on state and local finances. The plan calls for $875,000 in cuts, uses $925,000 in fund balance/reserves and proposes a 3.5 percent tax levy increase. The calculated “tax levy cap” for Fonda-Fultonville is 6.2 percent.

The proposed budget calls for a 1.62 percent spending decrease compared to the current budget. The district reduced its budget in response to the state’s plans to reduce aid, including mid-year cuts.

Fonda-Fultonville school leaders are projecting the loss of $1 million in state aid during the 2020-21 school year as they anticipate the impact of the New York state budget enacted on April 2. The projected loss of aid is based on the financial advice of the district’s auditors and other experts, under new provisions in the state budget that contribute to significant uncertainty for school districts. They include the introduction of three periodic reviews of state revenue that could result in mid-year school aid cuts. There is also a new “Pandemic Adjustment” state aid reduction that is, at least for now, fully offset by federal stimulus funding.

State aid cuts reverse a five year trend in which Fonda-Fultonville has received an approximate $850,000 annual increase in aid.

“The state aid projections for next year are uncertain and represent a challenge for all schools, but even more so for districts like Fonda-Fultonville that rely heavily on state aid for their revenue,” Superintendent of Schools Thomas Ciaccio said. “Almost 62 percent of our budget revenue comes from state aid.”

Fonda-Fultonville’s proposed budget eliminates 10 staff positions, mostly through retirements that will not be filled. It also cuts pre-K transportation, eliminates some extracurricular activities and reduces supplies.

“We developed a budget that takes the uncertainty of mid-year cuts into account while preserving the integrity of our academic programs,” Ciaccio said.

If the proposed budget is approved by voters, estimates show a property with a full assessed value of $100,000 would have an approximate annual tax bill increase of $56, or $4.66 per month.

Because the proposed tax levy increase is under the cap, the proposed budget will require a simple majority vote for approval. The tax cap law only applies to the tax levy — the amount of taxes collected by the district — not to tax rates or individual tax bills.

A public hearing on the proposed 2019-20 budget is scheduled Tuesday, May 26 at 6 p.m. via livestream. Information about accessing the livestream is available on the district’s website at www.fondafultonvilleschools.org/boe.

Community members who have questions about the proposed budget can submit them by emailing tbiggane@ffcsd.org or calling (518) 853-4415 Ext. 4230. School officials will respond live to all questions received by 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Community members who submit questions after that time will receive a personal reply.

Residents will elect three board members

The candidates, listed in alphabetical order, are incumbent Dennis Egelston, incumbent Mike Lewis and John Wiltey.

A one-year seat vacated by Frederick Hidde, will commence on June 10 and expire on June 30, 2021. Two three-year seats, presently occupied by Egelston and Lewis, become vacant as of July 1, 2020, and expire on June 30, 2023.

The two top vote getters will be elected to the three-year terms. The candidate with the third-most votes will be elected to the one-year term.

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