F-F: 8% tax hike allowed


Recorder News Staff

FONDA -- In a budget workshop Monday, Fonda-Fultonville Central School district officials said the state-imposed property tax cap formula would allow the district to increase the tax levy more than 8 percent for the 2013-14 budget.

However, it's not a limit officials expect to maximize.

"It's the percentage allowable, but it's not a number we'd recommend," interim Superintendent Ray Colucciello said.

The formula, based on state laws, says the district can raise the tax levy to $10.2 million, about $830,000 more than the current levy. It amounts to an approximate 8.83 percent increase.

District Treasurer Carey Shultz said the increase mostly stems from exemptions for Payments in Lieu of Taxes, like those from businesses in the Florida Business Park and the Johnstown Industrial Park.

"If we didn't have those PILOTs, [the levy limit] probably would have been closer to 5 percent," Shultz said.

Little was released Monday in the way of other hard numbers or potential programmatic or staff reductions. Shultz cited a new program review suggested by Colucciello, who said at board meetings through the budget vote in May, each will be presented to the board.

"In past years, we've rushed into it," Shultz said. "We've already used scalpels to cut down to the marrow, so we've got to be sure of the impact. We don't want to create panic."

In the past, officials said the potential shortfall for the upcoming school year was roughly $1.7 million, though that would likely be reduced by the recent half-million dollars realized in mid-year reductions.

Shultz said additional factors that could affect the budget are still being reviewed, like whether the district changes its health insurance system from self-insured to premium-based, and Colucciello said there is some hope the state Legislature could increase education aid when it adopts the budget.

The district has until Friday to advise teachers if they could be laid off in the 2013-14 budget. In response to teachers' questions about layoffs, Colucciello said he expects to meet with union representatives Wednesday.

In related news out of the Board of Education's monthly meeting:

* High school Principal David Halloran offered a presentation to the Board of Education on a program called GradPoint that was started in October. It's an online credit recovery program for at-risk students, he said, but it could be expanded next year so students can enroll in elective classes in order to maintain sequences and graduate on-time.

"It'll be great to have those electives when we're losing so many," Halloran said.

The school lost its high school business electives this month when the district laid off its business teacher as a part of mid-year budgetary reductions. The district has also lost 25 percent of its staff in the past five years.

Halloran said the program was instituted using grants, and was initially considered to address the district's high school graduation rate, as it dropped 10 percent between the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years.

"We wanted to make sure our graduation rates aren't volatile, or culvert-driven," Halloran said.

* The board appointed music teacher Chad Lenig as the director of the school marching band. The funds for that $1,604 stipend were donated by parents, community members, and the Parent-Teacher-Student organization. Lenig donated half the stipend to the school to offset transportation for the Sherburn Pageant of Bands competition.

"The students thank you, and the board thanks you," said board President Linda Wszolek.