Fredonia outlines its cut list

Cuts were laid on the table with the final draft of the Fredonia School District Budget Tuesday.

The board of education meeting was held in the auditorium, where around 30 residents, parents, teachers students and members of the parent teacher association waited for the news of cuts in the budget.

Business Administrator John Forbes said after other measures to realize savings like shared services and moving salaries to grants, the district had to cut many line items which came to include a 1.0 FTE career development and occupational studies teacher, a 1.0 FTE English language arts teacher, a 0.18 FTE art teacher, a 0.5 FTE speech teacher and a 0.5 and 1.0 FTE English as a second language teachers.

“We didn’t want to have to cut teachers in the budget but under these circumstances they had to be part of the budget,” Superintendent Paul DiFonzo said.

DiFonzo explained the ELA teacher was eliminated so two small academic intervention services classes can be combined and the ESL classes will be organized so elementary will have a half-time teacher and middle and high school students will share a full-time teacher.

“The decisions ultimately proposed by the board in this draft were based around what is best for students. If you want to help, the only ones that can change this are our legislators. I have met with Senator Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andy Goodell before the state budget for several years now and they know we are operating at 2009-10 aid levels. You see it in the news all the time now that districts have run out of fund balance and are now forced to reduce their program. Over the past five, six and seven years we have done our best to maintain programs and staff but the only ones who can change the direction of these things are the legislators,” DiFonzo added.

Forbes backed up what DiFonzo said by showing that since state aid was cut in 2010-11 the district has lost over $7.6 million in state aid funding.

“Just imagine what we could do if we had those funds,” he said.

The board voted to approve the proposed budget for $28,754,508, a 2.99 percent spending increase. This translates to a 2.98 percent in the tax levy and a tax rate increase of $3.29 per $1,000 assessed valuation for Pomfret, $1.21 for Arkwright, $1.23 for Portland, $0.95 for Sheridan and $0.90 for the town of Dunkirk. This increase is also under the district’s tax cap calculation of 3.49 percent.

Several people stood to speak about the proposed cuts. Parent Teacher Association President Roger Pacos thanked the board for replacing two elementary school teachers, a speech teacher and a teacher aide, but asked they reconsider the other positions cut in the budget.

“The staff cuts will mean middle and high school students will be in the same ESL classes. That with the elimination of an English AIS class will make it more difficult for students to pass the English regents. This is going to affect the graduation numbers and not in a good way,” he said.

DiFonzo responded saying, “Any staffing reductions are not going to be helpful.”

High School Math Teacher Darrin Paschke said he doesn’t think teachers should be cut after previous teacher concessions, the hiring of additional administrative staff and retention of sports.

“I can’t fathom cutting teachers before sports,” he said to applause.

DiFonzo said sports funding has stayed at the same level of funding for 12 years, which means the district has made cuts to modified sports. Coaches also made concessions and the district shares transportation and is looking into sharing more sports with neighboring schools.

Fredonia Student Chris Rivera also received applause for asking the ESL teachers be reinstated because as one of the fastest growing programs in the district, it will affect many students if it is reduced.

The board thanked him for his comment. Board Member Michael Bobseine said it has been a tough budget year.

“It has been a difficult budget. The school board is recommending this budget to the district, but asking people to pay more in taxes is not easy and getting this budget to pass will not be easy,” he said.

The budget vote will be held May 21 from 2 to 9 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.

The board will hold the public hearing for the budget at its next meeting on May 14 at 6:30 p.m. with the meeting to follow at 7 p.m. in high school room 636.

The budget presentation is available online on the school’s website