Since 1983, Fulton County taxpayers have contributed $33.6 million to Fulton Montgomery Community College, a little less than $1.3 million per year, according to a report released by the Fulton County Planning Department.
The report, written by Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz, was submitted to the finance committee of the Board of Supervisors Thursday. According to Mraz’s report, Fulton County has contributed $27.5 million to FMCC’s operating budget since 1983, $1.06 million per year, and $6.1 million to capital projects over the same period. Mraz said he chose 1983 to start his analysis of the county’s spending at FMCC because that was the first year Fulton County utilized its capital budget process to approve specific construction projects at the college.
The report did not include information about Montgomery County’s support for FMCC, but the two counties have always contributed in equal amounts to the college.
The report details all of the projects and Fulton County’s total annual contribution to them. The county’s contribution to capital projects spiked considerably from 1995 to 2009 when county taxpayers contributed $5.5 million toward the $23.2 million FMCC Master Plan, which included construction of a new fitness center as well as major upgrades to almost all of the buildings on campus.
Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael F. Gendron said the report was a “powerful statement” that rebukes the notion the county only contributes enough to the college to pay for lowering the tuition for in-county residents.
“I think this was an eye-opener for some of the new supervisors as well as the veterans like myself,” Gendron said. “These numbers are unbelievable.”
The report was delivered against the backdrop of the board’s recent decision not to contribute $200,000 FMCC had requested to help upgrade its computer system, which predates Microsoft Windows software and handles many of the college’s operations.
FMCC President Dustin Swanger said upgrading the computer system was vitally important to maintaining operations at the college because of the possibility of the old system crashing. He said the FMCC Foundation was able to contribute $150,000 to help purchase the new software. FMCC’s board found the other $50,000 in its budget by postponing plans to build an off-campus center in Johnstown.
Swanger said he thinks Mraz wrote the report to help supervisors deflect criticism that they haven’t supported the college.
“I’ve never even tried to imply that the counties are not supportive of the college. I think the counties are often unfairly accused of not supporting the college,” Swanger said. “They currently give us $1.4 million for our operating budget, but there is also the capital expense that they’ve invested in the campus over the years. So, even when the counties don’t give me everything that I want, I would still never say they aren’t supportive of the institution.”
Johnstown Supervisor Roy Palmateer said Mraz’s report is a good answer to critics of the board’s spending decisions toward FMCC. He said the money the county has given over the years has been wisely spent.
“We’ve got an investment there and we’ve got to take care of it and there isn’t anything better to invest in then your young adults,” he said.