By Ashley M. Casey
The Fulton City School District board of education voted March 25 to include propositions concerning the Fulton Public Library on the May 20 special election ballot.
Library Director Betty Maute and Board of Trustees President Marian Stanton presented two propositions to the board.
One would make the library a school district library and increase the annual tax amount the district collects for the library to $350,000 (currently, the school collects $170,000 a year on behalf of the library).
The other allows school district voters to elect members of the library’s board of trustees.
“We have to have stable funding,” Stanton said. “When push comes to shove, the library gets shoved.”
Fulton resident Bill Pierce spoke against the library propositions during the evening’s first public forum.
He said he had heard a lot of “misinformation” about which taxpayers would fall under the new levy amount, and he opposed the original 1999 New York state law that allowed libraries to collect taxes through school districts as well.
“It should have nothing to do with the school system,” Pierce said.
Fulton Superintendent Bill Lynch explained that only property owners who live in the Fulton City School District will pay the tax.
“The levying of the library tax will not be related to zip code. It will be on those who live in the Fulton school district,” Lynch said. “The school district will have no responsibility for the library building, staff or budget.”
Stanton also said the library would not “impinge on their (the school district’s) functions.”
Lynch told The Valley News if voters approve these propositions, they will have more control over the library than they do now.
“The registered voters are going to elect the library board,” he said. “The library is saying, ‘You will now have a stake in the governance of the library.’”
Currently, the Common Council approves the mayor’s appointments of library trustees.
Although the school board has approved the propositions for the May election, ultimately, it is up to the school district voters.
Budget waiting for state aid
Superintendent Bill Lynch and Director of Finance Kathy Nichols introduced a second draft of the proposed 2014-15 district budget.
The numbers are the same as in the first draft: The budget is expected to increase by 2.66 percent to $66,992,685 over the 2013-14 total of $65,259,100.
Lynch reiterated the district will increase the local tax levy only by 1 percent over last year’s rate.
“I just don’t think the community is in a spot to be able to handle (more than) that,” he said.
The district still faces a shortfall of $1,280,378. The district is hoping to close that gap through analyzing its revenues and spending, receiving a portion from the BOCES administrative budget, state aid and a possible reduction in the Gap Elimination Adjustment the district must pay.
New York state is expected to complete its budget by April 1.
“We are a high-need, low-wealth school district … We are relying on aid from New York state,” Lynch said. “Foundation aid has essentially been frozen since the 2008-09 school year.”
He explained that for the 2008-09 year, state foundation aid covered 40 percent of total education costs. Now, that aid covers only 35 percent, shifting more of the burden to local taxpayers.
Nichols and Lynch will present a third draft of the budget at the April 8 board meeting. The board is expected to adopt the budget at the April 23 meeting, and district taxpayers will vote on it May 20.
Public propositions for the May 20 election are due April 1.
The next regular meeting of the school board will be at 7:30 p.m. April 8 at the Education Center, 167 S. Fourth St.
The public hearing for the proposed school budget will be at 7 p.m. May 7 at the Junior High School, 129 Curtis St.
The vote on the school budget, library propositions and election of school board members will be May 20 at the elementary schools.