Fredonia school board still looking at $900K gap

Although further spending was cut in the third draft budget, Fredonia School District is still looking at an additional $879,689 in cuts to be under the tax cap.

According to Business Administrator John Forbes, spending was cut another percent for a third draft total of 5.06 percent increase, equating to a total budget of $29,331,347.

Many items were unchanged from the last budget presentation, including the unknowns of some final expenses and the final amount of state aid the district will receive.

According to Forbes, the district is allowed to raise the tax levy 3.36 percent without a supermajority; this would equate to a $491,528 increase.

Forbes again noted the nearly $8 million reduction in state aid since the 2010-2011 school year has hit all area districts hard and all districts including Fredonia are still dealing with the reduction.

He also noted that the average increase in school taxes over the past six years is 1.22 percent and 1.35 percent on average over the past three years.

Superintendent Paul DiFonzo also pointed out the district is again using $1.3 million in unappropriated fund balance to offset the levy.

“Basically we have held our spending in check. We were waiting for the state to give us the budget with the final legislative approved budget, which we are hoping will provide us with more state aid but we are sitting close to $900,000 away from the tax cap. We are still appropriating $1.3 million to put toward the levy. We will not have enough fund balance left at the end of the 2012-13 school year to match what we are taking out to replenish it,” he said.

He added focus needs to be made on lobbying legislators for restoration of aid.

“Everyone can see in a $28 million budget over the last three years we have lost $8 million in aid … and everyone here has heard our centralization attempts … it has not been easy to deal with an $8 million loss in state aid. That’s driving the biggest problem. So if anyone is concerned about where we are going, concerned about programming, the focus should be on the state legislators and getting assistance from them,” DiFonzo said.

Teachers’ Association President Roger Pacos asked the board on behalf of the teachers to preserve as many programs as possible when considering budget cuts.

“We are here because we know the budget process can be tough and the state has not made it easy on schools to keep offering the programs we are used to offering. We are asking you to keep as many programs in place that our community has been able to enjoy and appreciate over the years. Things have gotten a lot tougher in education; APPR has taken a lot of resources from us; we have all kinds of testing the state is requiring, we have common core curriculum we have to start testing on that we still haven’t gotten curriculum on because it is still being written. And with all these things coming down the pike it is just going to make it tougher and tougher on our students to get through school and cutting programs is going to make it even tougher on them,” he added.

The budget presentation is online for viewing at the school’s website under the board of education tab and in the board meeting agenda link.