In just a month as interim superintendent, Raymond Colucciello helped cut a half-million dollars from the budget of the financially troubled Fonda-Fultonville Central School District.
His cuts were approved Tuesday night, finally capping off the mid-year re-budgeting process started by Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel months ago.
The cuts were made to smooth end-of-the-year cash flow and prevent larger-scale money problems down the road, but they weren’t popular.
The majority of the $500,000 savings came from reworking the retiree health insurance program, changes in special education placement, refinancing some long-term debt and closing the swimming pool, but these cuts weren’t as controversial as the loss of Dr. Michael J. Fraser, the school psychologist. His position was formally eliminated Tuesday.
Colucciello said there was quite an outcry from parents at Tuesday’s meeting.
“They were frustrated, the citizens,” he said, “but who can blame them? In our haste to fix the budget, we rushed the transition.”
He said parents were concerned for the welfare of students with long-term bonds to Fraser. Director of Special Programs Scott Rice is charged with easing the transition.
“I’m calling all the parents of the kids he worked with in an official capacity,” Rice said.
Fraser provided counselling to a few dozen students, all of whom have been reassigned to other school counselors. The main concern is all the kids who Fraser helped unofficially.
“He knew a lot of kids by name,” Rice said. “Some kids would just pop by his office when they had a problem.”
Rice hopes such kids can form trusting relationships with other staff members, pointing out there are still three full-time counselors, a social worker and a part-time psychologist on staff, all ready to help troubled kids.
A business education teaching position was also cut to balance the budget.
To soften the grim news, spring sports were reinstated. Coaches decided to donate their time, and Robert Brown of Brown Transportation volunteered to bring teams to and from away games. All together, the donations by Brown and the coaches are worth $60,000.
“Spring sports were a gift piece,” Colucciello said.
Some parents worried the district traded the school psychologist for spring sports, which Colucciello said is not the case. Since spring sports are now run on donated time, rather than school money, Fraser’s job could not have been saved.
“I needed the psychologist position and the business teacher,” he said, adding he originally expected to cut five jobs rather than two.
The mid-year cuts balances the district budget through June 30.
“We’re done with phase one,” he said. “Phase two is figuring out next year’s budget.”