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District drops sports

FFCS plans midyear cuts, budget changes

December 18, 2012
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND , The Leader Herald

FONDA - The Fonda-Fultonville Central School District is cutting an estimated $410,000 from the 2012-13 budget, including spring sports and operation of the school pool.

Board of Education President Linda Wszolek said other budget changes include switching retirees to a Medicare Advantage Plan, refinancing the long-term debt and combining two runs on the transportation budget.

"The board had much discussion, the cuts were not easy choices to make. We are doing our best to maintain the academic integrity of our district," Wszolek said in a statement.

Article Photos

From left, Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Board of Education member Timothy Wendell, President Linda Wszolek and Interim Superintendent Patrick Michel prepare to discuss the midyear budget cuts Monday at the school.
The Leader-Herald/Arthur Cleveland

The board had to make midyear budget cuts because the district found a $500,000 budget shortfall as a result of state aid cuts, lower enrollment and unexpected costs.

The cuts to sports, totalling around $60,000, were a contentious part of the discussions. The sports include baseball, softball and track.

Switching to a Medicare Advantage Plan, according to Michel, will save the district $230,000.

Closing the pool will save $30,000, according to the district's Mid-Year Budget Committee, and will result in one staff member losing a job.

The district will save $50,000 in transportation by combining two bus runs into one and cutting a bus aide.

The district will save $30,000 by refinancing its debt.

The decision on the cuts follow the budget committee's work to estimate the amount of cuts the school could make while still remaining capable of performing its services.

At a Dec. 10 meeting, the committee recommended all cuts except for eliminating spring sports and closing the pool. However, both of those possible cuts were passed along to the school board for a final decision.

At the time, commission member Bonnie Couture said she was against cutting the spring sports program. She said due to the rural nature of the district and the absence of a local recreation center, school athletics are crucial.

Before a closed executive session Monday, Couture urged the board to take the recommendation to save sports and the pool into consideration.

"I know [the recommended cuts] aren't hugely popular with some people, but we have a lot of good ideas we're looking forward to putting into motion. There are a lot of people willing to help. All you have to do is ask," she said.

Interim Superintendent Patrick Michel said the district is trying to avoid staff cuts as much as possible.

"They came to the conclusion they had to [make the cuts]," Michel said.

An estimated $90,000 to $100,000 budget gap remains. Ways to fill the gap will be discussed at a future meeting.

In other district news, Monday night may have been the last night Michel serves as the interim superintendent for Fonda-Fultonville.

According to members of the board, the board will interview applicants to take over as the interim superintendent, who would work for the school temporarily until the budget crisis is solved.

The original search for a full- time superintendent was postponed when the budget crisis was discovered.

Michel said he realized his tenure as the interim superintendent was not a cheerful time considering the budget crisis, but he thanked the district for its patience.

Wszolek said board members are confident they will have a new interim superintendent by the end of the year.



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