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Fulton grapples with severe budget problems

The city of Fulton has weathered its share of storms before – but the weather is nothing like the budget problems it is facing.
Fulton (WSYR-TV) – The city of Fulton has weathered its share of storms before – but the weather is nothing like the budget problems it is facing.

It’s already cut deeply in the past few years, but the city may have almost nothing left in its reserve fund and it may need to reduce spending even more.

And now New York State has noticed and is getting involved.

A State Comptroller’s Audit identified Fulton as one of nine communities in New York that is under “moderate stress.”

It makes special note that the city has spent its rainy day funds to dangerously low levels, leaving city officials little cushion to manage unforeseen expenses.

"We can raise a fee here and a fee there but it’s not going to make up, we're looking this year at making up almost $800,000 going into next year. How do you do that?" Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward said.

The departure of Nestle impacted Fulton when it closed its factory years ago, but the loss continues to be felt in the community.

The current owner keeps tearing pieces down and that means less for the city to tax.

"It’s very challenging over the past few years, it’s been very difficult at times,” said Fulton Common Council President Jay Foster.

Fulton has already cut 10 percent of its workforce the past three years, but both the mayor and the common council president say that without other areas to reduce – and with so much of their budget tied up in personnel – they’ll likely have to let go of more staff.

"No one likes to make hard decisions but we've had to make them and we'll continue to do what we have to for citizens of Fulton and to continue to do business,” Foster said.

Fulton is also one of the first municipalities to apply for a comprehensive review by the state’s Financial Restructuring Board for local governments set up by Governor Andrew Cuomo this year.

"There's no doubt they probably have some expertise that I don't have or the Common Council don't have,” Woodward said.

Both leaders say, at this point, they have to listen to all suggestions for balancing the budget.

The mayor and the council are currently in the process of formulating the budget that starts Jan. 1 of next year.

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