Fort Edward school

The front of the Fort Edward school complex is seen here.

FORT EDWARD — Fort Edward School District received a “susceptible to fiscal stress” score in Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s fiscal stress report this year, mainly due to a $1.8 million settlement with General Electric last school year.

GE filed the suit, arguing the tax assessment on the dewatering plant was too high. The school district had money for the settlement in their reserves, but since it was not part of the budget, it put the school district into a 13 percent deficit for the school year, according to Fort Edward Superintendent Daniel Ward.

“We had the money saved in a reserve and were always planning around having to pay it,” Ward said. “The rating and everything all points at a piece of property down the hill.”

The deficit for the school year was around $1.6 million, meaning they would have stayed in the positive without the settlement payment.

The report looks at factors such as budget deficits, the amount of reserve cash a district has on hand, the year end fund balance and other factors to determine if a school is in trouble financially. The susceptible rating is the lowest stress score a district can receive.

Similar to Hudson Falls’ fiscal stress rating, Ward said the date at which the state looks at Fort Edward’s account is right after large expenses and well before the state aid for the year comes in.

A comptroller’s office spokesman, Brian Butry, said in an email the rating was due in large part to the budget deficit last year, but there were no other serious signs of stress.

The report factors in the budgets of the last three school years, so Fort Edward could be looking a similar scores down the line.

Ward said the GE facility was such a large presence in town, it had an impact on everyone’s budgets.

“The plant made up 40 something percent of the entire tax assessment for Fort Edward,” Ward said.

The school district and the rest of the town of Fort Edward are now in a similar situation with WCC, the owners of the facility GE was leasing. WCC is also filing a suit arguing their tax assessment is too high and the district could face another settlement payment with that case.

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Samuel Northrop is the education reporter for The Post-Star. He can be reached at snorthrop@poststar.com.


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