By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
FONDA -- Voters of the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District approved a $24 million budget Tuesday by a margin of 431-372.
The plan raises the tax levy by 4.5 percent, keeps staff and programming intact, reinstates modified athletics and extracurricular activities cut from the current budget, and adds a new initiative at each building.
"This is a victory for the students," said interim Superintendent Ray Colucciello. "And that's who this is all about."
Voters also re-elected incumbent school board member Matt Sullivan, the only one to submit a petition for two vacancies.
But 19 write-in candidates emerged. Bonnie Couture received the most votes -- 12 -- so she will fill the seat to be vacated by outgoing board President Linda Wszolek, who decided not to seek re-election.
The runners-up included former school board member Jason Downing, who received six votes, and booster club President Missy Furman, who received five.
Couture recently served as a member of the district's mid-year budget cuts committee, formed in December to recommend a half million dollars in cuts.
Since losing $6 million to state aid reductions since 2006, the district spent down its unappropriated reserves, using the last of it to balance the current budget. Then unexpected health care costs arose, and the district saw a reduction in building aid, necessitating the cuts in order to avert cash-flow issues.
The district cut two longtime staff members, closed the pool, and moved to change the health insurance plans of its retired employees.
Since, fiscal stability has been the goal, said Wszolek, and roughly a half million dollars has been saved for the district's coffers.
"The budget has really dominated everything," she said. "That's to the credit of Dr. Colucciello. He picked things apart and helped us have a clear direction. I'm really happy with the leadership he's provided."
"I'm very pleased the community supports what we've done," said Colucciello, who was hired in late December. "The board had to make some hard decisions; decisions that board's don't normally have to make. But they toughed it out."
Wszolek said choosing a permanent superintendent will be the task for a newly-seated board in July.
A proposition to fund both the Frothingham Free Library with a $15,419 tax allocation, and $6,500 for the Fort Hunter Free Library also passed by a margin of 485-287.
Other area budget vote results are as follows:
* Broadalbin-Perth: By a vote of 551 to 279, residents of the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District approved a $30,058,111 budget proposal for the 2013-14 school year. Under the approved budget, the district's tax levy is projected to increase 3.36 percent. Residents also approved a proposition to purchase three 66-passenger school buses, 577 to 245. In the board of education election, residents re-elected incumbent Paul Chizek to a second term with 640 votes. Chizek was running unopposed for the seat.
* Canajoharie: Canajoharie Central School District residents voted in support of the district's 2013-14 school budget Tuesday by a vote of 220 to 100. The approved $19.7 million plan calls for a spending increase of 2.53 percent over the current budget and carries a tax levy increase of 2.5 percent. The spending plan holds most expenditures at 2013-14 levels, and addresses increases in state-mandated pension contributions and health insurance expenses, while allocating resources to support student learning. Using a 2.5 percent increase in state aid and strategic use of fund balance and reserves, the board of education developed a budget that stayed under the district's 4.2 percent tax levy limit. Also, incumbent Rachael Mason was elected to a five-year term on the Canajoharie Board of Education with 264 votes.
* Fort Plain: Fort Plain Central School District residents voted in support of the district's 2013-14 school budget Tuesday by a vote of 180 to 82. The approved $19.3 million plan calls for 3.76 percent spending increase from the 2012-13 budget and a tax levy increase of 0.95 percent. Under the approved plan, field trips are restored and no teaching positions were cut. The district will continue to provide shared services with neighboring districts. The approved plan also uses $950,000 from the district's savings to help offset the increased costs associated with employee health insurance and New York State Retirement System contributions, approximately $37,000 in Federal sequestration cuts, and $457,944 in cuts to state aid due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment (G.E.A.) Two board members were also elected to three-year terms on Tuesday. Incumbents and Ronald Kardash received 187 votes and Louis R. Capece received 174 votes.
* Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville: Residents of the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District approved a proposed $18.1 million budget for the 2013-14 school year, 154 to 17.The $18,088,119 budget calls for a tax levy of $4,830,151, which is equal to the two separate levies paid by Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville residents this year. For 2012-13, the Oppenheim-Ephratah tax levy was $2,443,412 and St. Johnsville's was $2,386,739. As board members were already selected by voters in April, there were no board candidates on Tuesday's ballot. Two board seats will be on the May 2014 ballot.
* Mayfield: A $16.76 million budget was approved by voters, 224-78. While the budget represented a 3.59 percent decrease in spending, it carried a 3.5 percent tax increase. In the school board election, Joan Scannell defeated Frederick Castiglione, 238-63.
* Galway: Voters in the Galway Central School District approved a $17.9 million budget, 461-239. Seven people sought three seats on the school board, and Jay Anderson, Lauralyn Sakala and Melodye Eldeen were the winners.
Recorder Editor Charlie Kraebel contributed to this story.