FONDA — On May 16 Fonda-Fultonville Central School District voters will decide on a $28.2 million proposed 2017-18 school budget that increases the district’s tax levy by 1.9 percent to $10.3 million, up $192,753 from the 2016-17 budget.
The proposed budget stays within the New York state property tax cap for FFCSD which would allow up to a 2.41 percent increase for FFCSD for the 2017-18 school year. Tax rates will not be available until August when New York state calculates equalization rates, but district officials estimate a home assessed at about $100,000 will probably see a $50 tax bill increase from this budget.
The budget increases year-over-year spending by 5.57 percent, about half of which is accounted for by debt service to the district’s $19.4 million capital project. FFCSD is also getting about $1.1 million in additional state aide to help pay the capital project.
“There are costs that have increased this year that we’ve incorporated into this budget. We’ve actually added a new special education teacher to create a new life skills class for the district,” FFCSD Business Administrator Joseph Karas said.
Superintendent Thomas Ciaccio said the life skills class created by the special education teacher will hopefully enable the district to save about $150,000 by bringing three alternative assessment students, who are all in the age-range of middle school to high school, back from placements in programs outside the district like those offered at HFM BOCES. Ciaccio said outside placements typically cost the district about $50,000 per student.
“We really want to bring these students back to our district, and as we look at the numbers, the savings of bringing those students back to the district will more than support hiring a special education teacher to run our life skills program,” Ciaccio said. “About four years ago, we were having a very difficult time financially, so it was very difficult to expand programming when we were having to cut programs. I think at this point, I wouldn’t say we’re where we want to be, but we are in a position where we can expand and not create more in the budget. We’re hoping to bring back three students and save $150,000.”
Ciaccio said the life skills program will help students learn how to be more independent.
“They will be taught how to balance a checkbook, how to go out and shop for things. How to look at doing their laundry. How to be self-sufficient and independent, and to create a curriculum like that you really need to have a dynamic teacher and we have the support staff to support the classroom, but we don’t have the teacher yet,” Ciaccio said.
Another new program in the budget is the Career Development and Occupational Studies program, which will allow students the opportunity to graduate with a CDOS commencement credential added to their high school diplomas, which was approved by the state education department last year.
To balance the budget FFCSD is spending about $93,000 of its fund balance, its reserve of unspent tax revenues, and $195,000 from its debt service account and a reserve it has for paying early retirement incentives.
Karas said FFCSD is asking voters to approve two four-year bus leases, costing $23,370 annually and $93,480 total, for one 66-passenger bus and one 20-passenger bus.
“These buses will help provide transportation for our full-day pre-k. We also expanded our summer enrichment program. These buses will be primarily used for non-aidable runs, Karas said, explaining that certain types of bus transport, like for pre-k students, does not receive state aide reimbursement. “We have at least 30 or 40 students in the pre-k program, and the municipalities in our school district cover 120 square miles. In order to not have any of the student on the bus for more than an hour, we need to have three separate runs.”
The second proposition creates a capital reserve, which would be dedicated for future updates and renovations of the school district. Karas said, if the capital reserve is created, the school board will be able to put funds into it, but only take money out of it for voter-approved capital projects.