Fonda-Fultonville students might be looking for some new hobbies after Monday night’s midyear budget-cutting meeting.
Faced with extracting a half-million dollars from the already-tight 2012-13 budget, the Board of Education approved several controversial cuts, ending spring sports, draining the pool and tweaking retiree health insurance.
“It’s been a very difficult, very emotional process,” said district Treasurer Carey Shultz.
Spring sports might be the most contested of the cuts. When modified sports for younger students were cut during the initial budget process months ago, parents stepped up, starting a booster club and raising money to keep the program on track.
“Sports are important to people here,” Shultz said.
The new cuts aren’t popular with booster parents after they worked so hard to save modified sports.
“I’m not happy about it,” said club President Missy Furman. “I can tell you that much.”
She noted that sports provide kids a physical outlet, improving coordination as well as life skills such as teamwork and sportsmanship. Club members are considering an effort to raise funds for spring sports as they did with modified sports, but baseball, softball and track cost the district $60,000.
“That’s a lot of money to raise in a short amount of time,” she said.
With no junior varsity and varsity teams, Furman worries even the donation-funded modified sports will be cut since the younger kids will have nowhere to play as they advance.
“I feel bad for all the kids. I don’t know what they’ll do,” she said. “There have to be other avenues to explore, other things to be cut.”
According to Shultz, the board has already explored those avenues. Two bus routes were consolidated into one, saving $50,000. Closing down the pool saves $30,000 in staffing, heating and chlorine. Refinancing some existing debt saves another $30,000.
“When you’ve been operating on a skeleton budget for as long as we have there aren’t many things to be cut,” he said.
While cutting sports drew some flak, most of the savings will likely be realized by shifting retired employees from the current indemnity health insurance plan to Medicare Advantage.
“There has been some push-back to the idea,” Shultz said. “Whenever people hear change they get scared, and that’s understandable.”
The change has to be negotiated with the teachers’ union, but if implemented by January is projected to net a total savings of $230,000.
That’s nearly half of what the district needs to cut to get its finances back in order. Even so, Shultz said, retirees won’t see a decrease in coverage. He called the current indemnity plan the Cadillac of insurance policies, covering things such as childbirth that people of retirement age don’t actually need.
“Medicare Advantage is tailored to people of this age,” he said. “In some cases their coverage will actually get better.”
All told the board cut $400,000 from the 2012-13 budget, $100,000 short of the half-million goal. With such a slimmed-down budget already in effect, those final cuts will likely come from staff layoffs, decisions on which will be made in future meetings.