Fulton Board of Education approves budget, tax increase

Superintendent Brian Pulvino, seen in the above file photo, recently saw his $73.7 million budget proposal for the Fulton City School District's 2020-2021 school year approved unanimously by the Board of Education.

FULTON — The Fulton City School District Board of Education last week unanimously approved a $73.77 million budget for 2020-2021, a $423,000 increase from 2019-2020.

FCSD Superintendent Brian Pulvino said the budget will not use any of the district’s fund balance or reserves. Instead, the increase will be made up in a 2 percent tax levy increase.

School officials previously said the estimated increased tax impact amounts to roughly $35 for a $100,000 residence.

There will be a public hearing on the budget today, with an election and budget vote set for June 9 through absentee ballots sent to eligible voters throughout the district.

“This has been a very challenging time. We started off in January looking very normal going into the budget process. Fulton was poised as being fiscally strong. However, now we’ve gone into a time with unknown revenues in the current year,” Pulvino said. “Right now, we don’t know. There’s been talk of cash flow issues at the state level. There are revenue issues and those impacts.”

The district faced a budget gap of more than $831,000 heading into its final budget workshop last week. The board voted to raise taxes to the 2 percent cap — which makes up for the $423,000 increase in spending — and make almost $410,000 in cuts.

Attrition cuts through teacher retirements will include a music department full-time equivalent position and one-half of a full-time position in the technology department.

Other cuts included a reduction in general education teacher aid costs of roughly 10 hours per school, and a reduction in tutoring hours at the junior high.

Athletics also saw cutbacks, including consolidating modified girls soccer teams and no longer providing boys indoor track, junior varsity cheerleading in the fall or winter or a boys grades 8-9 soccer team, due to low participation numbers.

Overall, the budget represents more than $2 million in cutbacks since district officials presented their “roll forward” budget in February.

There’s no reduction in credit-bearing courses and no layoffs, Pulvino said, but a reduction in 8.5 full-time equivalents through attrition.

“One of the hardest things to do as a board member is to oversee a budget that requires the loss or changes in programming and doing things different, because there’s always that sense,” Board President Robbin Griffin said. “Even if we do it right ... we all experience a sense of loss.”

Betsy Conners, the executive director of instruction and assessment, fielded concerns from board members specifically over cuts to the music department.

“There is no cut ... that we make that isn’t taken to heart, I don’t care what department it is,” Conners said. “One of the things I can say is that we’ve looked at the music and we’re not impacting program. ... This cut does impact the way we deliver as far as what teacher is in front of the students, but that was going to happen anyways. There will be some traveling of our elementary (teachers) ... but we have an obligation to right size.”

Pulvino cautioned the board that cuts might not, ultimately, be necessary. He pointed out there are four periods for the governor and the Department of Budget to review and possibly take back aid given to schools: the end of April, June, December and March 2021.

Any reductions in aid would likely lead to more cutbacks.

“We keep hearing rumors that somewhere between 5 and 20 percent reduction. ... That’s beyond all of this. I want to make that very clear,” Pulvino said. “We’re poised to be flat (in financial aid received) and we’re hoping that the federal aid comes in and minimizes that impact.”

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