$837,000 left to cut in Fredonia school budget

There is still lots of cutting left to do in the proposed 2014-2015 Fredonia Central School budget, according to some officials.

Business Administrator John Forbes once again updated the board of education Tuesday on progress with getting the budget under control. About $837,000 still needs to be eliminated for the district to comply with its state-mandated tax cap, thereby avoiding the requirement of a 60 percent supermajority of voters to pass the budget.

“In this budget draft, there is not $837,000 worth of ‘extras,’ or even fund balance that you’d want to cut out and maintain a reasonable budget, so you’d be looking at something being impacted greatly.” Forbes said. “We need the state to do something for us. That would be a huge factor for us. If we were to get even half of the $837,000, I think we might be able to get to a good spot where we won’t have to affect programs or staffing greatly.”

The total budget currently stands at $30,086,194, or a 4.63 percent increase from the current year.

School officials say tough program and/or staffing cuts will soon be on the way if New York state legislators cannot sprinkle a bit more funding into their final budget.

“It’s not just a money issue here,” Superintendent Paul DiFonzo said. “There has been a reduction in enrollment across the board in our county’s districts, and just throwing money at the problem is not going to solve our issues down the road. My concern is we get to a point when we’re not providing students in Fredonia with what they need. We need to continue to look at what we can do to share services … and maintain or increase programming for students.”

“The decisions we make are based on student needs,” he concluded. “And right now, it’s getting extremely difficult to continue to meet those needs without some kind of help …”

Forbes said the “big hit” in benefits continues to be in the Teachers’ Retirement System, which is projected to increase by 39.2 percent, or $514,000.

Some of the more significant adjustments in the budget since the last draft, Forbes said, were a $260,000 decrease in BOCES services mainly due to an enrollment reduction of two students next year and a $68,000 slash in equipment due to the removal of requests for a tractor, a floor scrubber and an LED sign out front.

Funds initially intended for that LED sign, which was part of a $100,000 aidable local maintenance project, will provide a boost to driveway and parking lot repairs, bringing that to $65,000.

“Sooner rather than later, we’re going to need to look at full resurfacing of at least the elementary/middle school parking lot, so we’re trying to get money in the budget to cover that,” Forbes said.

School officials are urging taxpayers and stakeholders in the community to attend a budget forum Thursday at 7 p.m. in the high school library to express where they believe funds should be eliminated in the budget.

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