Public to have say in Fredonia Central School budget cuts

With hundreds of thousands of dollars left to cut in the 2014-2015 Fredonia Central School budget, taxpayers and stakeholders will now have an opportunity to express ahead of time where they believe funds should be eliminated, particularly from staffing and programming.

The Fredonia Board of Education Tuesday scheduled a community budget forum for March 27 at 7 p.m. in the high school library.

Business Administrator John Forbes estimated around $850,000 will still need to be cut by then for the school to comply with the state-mandated tax cap without requiring a 60 percent supermajority of voters.

Fredonia’s cap is currently calculated at an allowable increase of $158,410, or 1.05 percent.

“If it comes to pass that there’s no help from state legislators in terms of restoring aid, then we’re going to have some difficult decisions to make, and I think that would be the focus of this forum,” Superintendent Paul DiFonzo said. “We have to have a frank conversation with our community and make some difficult decisions, especially since we are going to try and have a reasonable budget in place by April 8 for our district.”

The board will invite Assemblyman Andy Goodell and state Senator Cathy Young to the forum, as well.

“We have to keep pressure on them as they work on the state budget,” DiFonzo said. “They need to understand the position we’re currently in.”

“The belief is you will have the state budget before April 1,” Forbes said.

A list of potential areas to cut, including non-mandated programs such as extracurriculars and sports, will be prepared ahead of time for the forum.

Board President Michael Bobseine made it clear this forum is to gather public input on the budget before the board releases a final draft.

“When we’re looking to adopt the budget, we as a board adopt a proposed budget, and then we have, after that, a budget hearing, and of course by then, we’ve already adopted our budget,” he said. “So, the difference here is we’re actually putting the horse before the cart (instead of the cart before the horse, like usual).”

“This will give everyone, our staff, teachers and concerned parents, a chance to look at where we actually are before we make final changes to the budget,” DiFonzo said. “Even if we don’t have the legislators’ budget by then, we can see what we need to do to get to the amounts in the governor’s proposal.”

As of Monday, salaries and benefits stand at an increase of $1,312,443, bringing the total to $20,251,333. The overall budget currently stands at $30,452,722, or a $1,698,214 (5.91 percent) increase.

As part of an expected $100,000 aidable local maintenance project, Forbes said $40,000 will be budgeted for driveway and parking lot repairs and $35,000 will go toward a new LED sign out front. On the topic of equipment, Forbes added he received requests for a piano ($20,000), computer servers ($20,000) and either a pickup/plow truck ($34,319) or a full-size tractor ($26,300).

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