BOCES District Superintendent Patrick Michel plans to lead the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District on an interim basis, lead its search for a permanent superintendent and lead it through some tight financial times. All without any extra pay.
In its second round of budget cutting this year, the Board of Education decided to save roughly $50,000 by filling James Hoffman’s vacated position from within on an interim basis. A current administrator such as the high school principal would have been given a stipend to additionally serve as superintendent until a permanent replacement was hired. But even that plan was discarded as a cost-saving measure.
Instead, Michel, who is legally obligated to take over superintendentless districts, offered his services on an interim basis at no cost to Fonda-Fultonville.
“I met with the board privately,” he said. “They need a building and grounds manager and by stepping in myself, I can free up enough funding for them to hire one.”
According to District Clerk Lori Coons, Fonda-Fultonville hopes to have a permanent superintendent hired by Jan. 1.
In the roughly six months Michel will run things, the district will save about $80,000 in salary funds. The majority of those savings is already spoken for in the budget, but the district will have an extra $30,000 to handle the unexpected.
“You can write a budget, but when it actually takes effect, there are always unforeseen expenses,” Michel said.
BOCES is taking care of the hiring process as it has for many area districts. It has advertised the position, Michel is making calls to professionals he thinks would fit the position and public forums are set for the fall.
However, Michel isn’t just there to find a new leader. He plans to exert some leadership himself and make some changes.
“The district’s revenues are not going to cover their costs,” he said. “They have a property tax levy cap, but state aid is capped as well, and it’s going to decrease next year.”
Michel said if nothing changes, Fonda-Fultonville will face a $1.4 million structural deficit in 2013-14.
“The school system is going to have to make deep and fundamental changes,” he said. “There is a new normal in how we can expect to do business in the future.”
The Board of Education will be meeting with Michel to plan a longer term, three-year budget projection. It will be looking to streamline health benefits and transportation costs, among other things. Michel said educational programming would be the last thing to go, citing the district’s top 20 rating in the Capital Region and excellent graduation rate.
“I don’t want them to lose their academic edge under the looming budget deficit,” he said.
This goal of maintaining high standards of education with many fewer dollars is a large factor in the search for a new superintendent. The position, which will pay between $120,000 and $140,000, will be filled by someone with an extensive financial background as well as academic expertise.
In the meantime, Michel will be trying to make the system financially viable.
“It’s self-serving as well,” he said. “If the district falls into insolvency, I’ll have to step in anyway.”