Proposed Fredonia school budget has 2.99 percent spending hike

Fredonia Business Administrator John Forbes gave the official presentation of the budget Tuesday at the board of education meeting.

He said the budget is the same the board adopted at its April 23 meeting and the same that will be presented to voters on May 21.

The proposed budget is $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.

To balance the budget the district plans to cut 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.

Forbes said if the budget is defeated twice, the district will need to cut $436,780 for a zero percent levy hike.

Board Member Michael Bobseine pointed out there are major increases in benefits, which increased $405,304 and in BOCES Services which increased $303,064.

Forbes said teacher and employee retirement increases were the main reason for the increase, which is out of the district’s control. He said BOCES increased based on projected students needing special education services.

Fredonia Teachers’ Association President Roger Pacos asked the board to use the money not being used on special education students in this budget line to restore teacher positions. He said if unexpected students need the services, that is what fund balance should be used for and then state aid the following year would reimburse the expense.

“You have a savings account for a rainy day, well it’s pouring out, I think it’s time to spend some of our savings,” he said.

Forbes said only about $100,000 of the increase is not dedicated to students already in the district. He also pointed out, if extra is not put into the budget, there is no fund balance at the end of the year, which would make it hard to maintain the $1.25 million the district is currently using to offset the levy.

Math teacher Darrin Paschke also asked the board to take another look at the budget and reduce the “padding” in order to restore teacher positions.

“I think the money is there,” he said.

Superintendent Paul DiFonzo said the problem is the reduction of state aid.

“We shared all this information with our legislators year after year. They have a complete breakdown of this budget prior to the state budget being approved. They know we have lost over the last four or five years $7.5 million in aid in a roughly $28 million budget. We have made it clear that those are the people who can actually impact how state aid is divided inequitably and how state aid is funded to different school districts. We have done our very best to provide programs to students while controlling costs,” he said.

The board also heard a report from Siemens representatives, who explained after a 14-month review by the state, the energy efficiency project is ready to move forward. A majority of the work will be done during the summer or on second shift during the school year.

Director of Instruction Joe Reyda also reported the EXCEL project committee will present recommendations for EXCEL projects in June.

The budget vote will be held May 21 from 2 to 9 p.m. in the high school cafeteria. The board will next meet June 11 at 6:30 p.m. in high school room 636.