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Frontier School District currently faces $2.4 million budget gap

A budget gap of roughly $2.4 million is facing officials in the Frontier Central School District in the financial planning process for the 2013-14 academic year. Closing that disparity, district officials say, will require delving into areas noted as being “uncomfortable” in terms of breaching.

Superintendent James Bodziak and School Business Manager Richard Calipari presented the Frontier Central School Board at last Tuesday’s (Feb. 26) meeting with updated information regarding Frontier’s budget process. According to Bodziak and Calipari, what had originally been a budget gap of about $3.25 million, an amount representing the shortfall between projected revenues ($71,678,662) and expenditures ($74,931,240), is now whittled down to around $2.4 million through various reductions, to go along with a spending freeze and BOCES adjustments. Still, difficult decisions will still have to be made by district officials in order to account for the remaining disparity, as Bodziak cited the ongoing need to discern pertinent versus touchable programs to be addressed.

“We don’t want to devastate programs, but we have to look into (identifying what is a possibility for cutting or adjusting),” said the superintendent.

Bodziak added that it is not his expectation that district officials will further use appropriated reserves to offset the budget gap. It was stated by Calipari that as part of the tax cap formula, a 3.02 percent tax rate increase had been initially established for the district, with a maximum allowable overall tax levy of about $35 million. However, the school business manager noted that both figures could change slightly as the planning process progresses, adding that an overall tax levy of closer to $35 million could be instituted.

Expenditure increases are slated to increase from 2012-13 by 3.66 percent, with Teacher Retirement System ($4,729,779) and Employee Retirement System ($2,006,989) costs accounting for much of the projected rises with hikes of nearly 41 percent and 23 percent. Despite these noted increases, Bodziak praised Calipari as part of the planning process for helping to implement the option of offering retirement incentives to somewhat offset the rising salary costs, as salaries (projected at $39,319,581) already accounted for nearly a 4 percent rise under the district’s expenditure budget portion. Other noted expenditure hikes are projected for worker’s compensation (12.65 percent, to $706,613); contractual (6.27 percent, to $4,048,306); materials/supplies (3.57 percent, to $1,020,731); and social security (slated to be $2,948,364). Health care costs are projected to remain the same at $7,706,295; while debt services are slated to decrease by about 4 percent to $3,587,724.

Calipari said the district will receive $63,499 more than originally anticipated as part of revenue projections. Overall district enrollment is slated to be stabilized in 2013-14 as compared to 2012-13, with a total of 4,985 students projected, with an increase of about a dozen at Frontier High School.

Big Tree PTA President and district parent Mark Gillen, speaking during public comment session, said it is possible to expect a somewhat significant number of layoffs in terms of district employees being budget casualties, following the notable teaching and staff cuts that were made as part of budget slashing a year ago.

“It’s the real world (to presently expect aforementioned cuts during a budget process),” said Gillen, “But it’s troubling.”

Bodziak said doing more with less is a scenario that faces district officials in the current age of declining state aid and enduring elements of constraint, as the superintendent cited a symbolic quote from a noted writer.

“Asking the right question about the future is more powerful than having the right answer about the past,” said Bodziak.

In other meeting action, Richard Gray, who serves as the district’s Director of Athletics, Health and Physical Education, presented the school board with an update on health and physical education for grades K-12. Gray explained as part of his discussion several of his original plans upon being hired in his current position two and one-half years ago, stating his “game plan.”

Providing similar phys ed programs for Frontier Middle and High schools, as well as establishing a standardized manual for high school administrators- along with DVD and lesson plans- and division of grades 9/10 and 11/12 into separate and set curriculum, were some of the items Gray mentioned as part of his progressing itinerary. Additionally, implementing a grade system at Frontier High PE in 2010-11 incorporates 20 percent of a skill assessment and and accompanying 80 percent of participation. This was a change from what had been 100 percent of a student’s PE grade being accounted for from participation, including timeliness, self control and other parameters.

“We wanted all (participating students in PE) to have the knowledge and skills in any program they participate in,” Gray said, explaining part one of his mission statement ideals, adding that meeting state standards is also of the utmost importance.

PE high school students are provided a pair of five-week units each quarter, meeting two to three times per week for 40 minutes. In addition to regular curriculum, “Lifetime” activities include Kan Jam, tennis and other sports; while fitness items include yoga, P90X and training intervals. Student Learning Objectives contain fitness grams. Also, Gray said, it is expected that high school PE class grades will soon count toward a student’s grade point average, a scenario that currently exists in the middle school.

Fitness gram itinerary from grades 3-12 includes sit-ups and other flexibility related activities. Middle school PE students participate in a pair of five-week units, with two to three classes per week that are 42 minutes in length. In addition to middle school PE activities, Gray marveled at the improvements made at the middle school weight room, which he noted has seen a revitalization from being re-painted and filled with a pair of dumb bell racks, power squat machines, pull-up bars, and a donated leg extension machine.

“Some of the equipment that had been in (the middle school weight room) looked like (items) I had used back in about 1983,” quipped Gray, the former coach of the Frontier varsity football team. “Now, it’s really moving forward, and has the capability of holding a good 30 kids in there.”

Students in grades K-3 are given PE twice per week, with 35 minute classes. SLO activities include skipping for kindergartners, throwing for first graders, dribbling for second graders, jumping rope for third graders, and fitness gram items for students in grades 4 and 5.

Gray described a fifth grade track meet competition in June as “the Super Bowl” of fitness events, adding that an annual tug-of-war competition draws similar solid efforts.

Also, a Movement Education Program item slated for 2013-14 includes a five to 10-minute exercise program for students at the beginning of the school day, with stretching and other activity taking place near the desks of pupils. Such a routine is said to serve as a limbering up for students.

Board Member Jeremey Rosen said “Kids do well with a good warm-up.”

Intramural activities are said to take place between 2:15 and 4:15 p.m. each day, attracting at times as many as 50 students at the high school.

Another agenda item Tuesday included the board voting 9-0 to approve a resolution appointing Karen MacGamwell to the position of interim assistant middle school principal through June 28.quite

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