Fredonia school board not ready to zero in on cuts

Despite rumors of program cuts, nothing specific was included in the fourth draft budget presentation at the Fredonia Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

One resident addressed the board asking it not cut the English as a Second Language program, which currently has three teachers.

He said his children have benefited greatly from the district’s program and changing it to a single class would have “severe consequences.” He asked the board to reconsider its plan to cut the program.

Superintendent Paul DiFonzo said the district has not discussed specific cuts in the budget.

“We haven’t really discussed any staffing reductions in any of our formal agenda meetings. We aren’t that far in the budget process,” he said.

Business Administrator John Forbes said the fourth budget presentation had no changes on the expenditure side of the budget from the third draft. The total budget figure was held steady at $29,331,347, a 5.06 percent increase from 2012-13.

There were, however, revenue changes in the form of increased state aid of $416,284 from the original state budget proposal by Gov. Cuomo.

Forbes said even with this additional aid, the amount is still less than the district received two years ago.

“Even through the addition of almost $400,000 of aid the amount of state aid is still below two years ago and only went up about 1.2 percent from the previous budget draft so even though we did get the money it didn’t make a tremendous difference for us,” he said.

After the increase the district is still $480,428 above its tax levy limit of 3.36 percent, which it can only exceed with a super majority vote.

DiFonzo said the district does not expect more revenues and has exhausted other options for saving money.

“The bottom line is we are still $480,000 away from just the tax cap. I do not believe we are going to receive any more revenues for the next budget year and we have maxed out renting out our facility at Wheelock. I don’t advise the board to increase taking out of our fund balance from the $1.3 million number. I think we are really looking at trying to reduce $480,000, I’m afraid, to just get to the tax cap which is going to be a 3 percent increase in taxes,” he said.

He said legislators are aware of the districts situation.

“We have our work cut out for us. … In the past seven or eight years we have tried to be cost-effective and also tried to increase the revenue in our district. We have done the very best we can to try to maintain our staffing; we’ve tried to maintain our programs. Obviously, students come first. After you have tried two centralizations, after you have tried insurance consortiums, energy consortiums, after we have tried sharing services with other districts, we are renting out the whole facility at Wheelock at this time, we put all of our students on the Main Street campus … but with the way the aid is decreasing year after year and costs keep going up. … We are appropriating $1.3 million. If we continue to do that for the next three or four years we will be broke. It becomes very difficult when you know the only people who can help you are legislators or neighboring school districts who consider doing some dramatic things,” DiFonzo added.

Board Member Tom Hawk asked how much the 3.36 increase in the tax levy would equate to in dollars. Forbes said it is a $491,518 increase, with the total levy coming in at $15,133,757.

The board went into executive session at the end of the meeting to discuss impending negotiations.

DiFonzo said after the budget retreat on April 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school library, the board will have finalized a budget. The board will hold its next regular meeting on April 23 at 6:30 p.m. in high school room 636.