FCS draft budget released

Fredonia Central School District Business Administrator John Forbes presented the first look at the school’s budget to the board of education for the upcoming year, which will be modified as the board makes changes at the upcoming meetings.

“It’s important for the board and the community to know that through this process, you’ll hear terms such as deficit, academic insolvency, financial insolvency, and the draining of fund balance. You’ll hear that we need to look at every item no matter how large or how small. You’ll hear that we need to consider cuts to programs and staff,” Forbes stated as he began, noting reductions in state aid and increased demands.

“What I want everyone to understand is this is not a Fredonia problem, it’s not a Chautauqua County problem. These are statewide problems,” Forbes told the board and cited budget problems in large and small districts across the state.

Forbes explained about $250,000 has been allocated in the preliminary budget for expenses related to the Annual Professional Performance Review standards set forth by the New York State Education Department. “Superintendent Paul DiFonzo said he feels there is problem between Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget and the state education department’s demands.

“The SED is pushing forward with changes in testing and curriculum, and with the state, there seems to be a real disconnect there,” he said regarding the costs associated with enacting the new APPR standards.

The total budget increase in the draft is about 2 percent from last year.

The largest portion of the budget is comprised of salaries and benefits. Of the nearly $28 million budget, $19.6 million is attached to salaries and benefits, up by 6.4 percent from last year.

Employee benefits are expected to increase by 8.9 percent, with the largest cost associated with unemployment insurance, which is increasing by about 74 percent at a cost of $100,000.

Forbes projects about a 16 percent increase in costs of the teachers’ retirement system at a cost of about $1.3 million to the district, and about $434,000 increase associated with the employees retirement system.

Expenses to BOCES have also increased.

“This is where it hurts,” Forbes stated, and explained several new students with special education needs have moved into the district, which comes at a cost. The cost has increased by $651,000 over last year, for a total of $2.8 million to BOCES, a 28 pecent increase.

“We get aid for those students, but the aid is received in subsequent years, so the district has to eat the cost the first year,” he said.

Other changes are expected to cause increases, such as $37,000 lost in tax revenue in pending tax reduction cases involving commercial businesses.

Maintenance and repairs will also come at a cost. Re-pointing masonry on the Main Street campus is expected to cost $35,000, “major issues” on an access road may require $17,500, brick sealing at $15,000 and $10,000 to replace more water pipe, Forbes explained. He said a contractor doing other work pointed out problems which “should be done sooner rather than later” to avoid more costly repairs at a later date.

An increase of 16 percent or about $124,000 in materials and supplies is also anticipated, an budget line which totals $875,000.

The board agreed to meet on March 19 at 6:30 p.m. to work line by line through the budget and begin changes.

Comments on this article may be sent so spulawski@observertoday.com