Reducing to a single polling site will still go on as previously planned in the May budget vote within the Frontier Central School District, despite a prior oversight related to the matter being mentioned at Tuesday’s (Nov. 6) meeting.
Board President Janet Plarr stated Tuesday that the oversight included that an initial resolution at the board’s Oct. 16 meeting, brought by Board Member Thomas Best Jr. and including the idea of putting the matter of reducing from five district polling sites to a single voting location before voters as a proposition item in May, should have been acted upon by the board at that time. The board had subsequently 16 conducted a roll call vote on reducing from the usual five polling locations – existing at Blasdell Elementary School, Cloverbank Elementary, Pinehurst Elementary, Frontier High School and Woodlawn Fire Hall – to a single polling site, likely the Frontier Central Learning Center on Southwestern Boulevard on Oct. 16. The site reduction item was approved by a 5-4 margin, overcoming dissenting “No” votes from Board Members Best, Jeremey Rosen, Martin Lalka and Nancy Wood, as the item was slated to take effect for voters in May.
Prior to the Oct. 16 meeting, Board Member Jack Chiappone had at the board’s Oct. 2 meeting initially brought the polling site reduction matter as a resolution, asking for a roll call vote. However, Rosen and Best had responded with a motion and a second to table the reduction matter, an item that Plarr said should subsequently have been listed under “old business” at the Oct. 16 meeting.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the board first acted to rescind the resolution to reduce the number of polling sites from five to one, with the item being approved by an 8-1 vote, as Rosen cast the dissenting “No” vote. Best’s aforementioned the polling site reduction matter before voters in May as a proposition item, was voted down by a 5-4 margin, as Board Members Plarr, Chiappone, Patrick Boyle, Lynn Burke and Larry Albert cast dissenting “No”votes.
Finally, it was ultimately decided again by the same 5-4 margin to effectively approve the matter of reducing polling sites from five to one, as similar “Yes” votes from Plarr, Chiappone, Boyle, Burke and Albert defeated “No” votes from Rosen, Best, Lalka and Wood. So, district voters were, and will be further, informed that they will have the option of voting in May at just one voting location, established to be the Frontier Central Learning Center on Southwestern Boulevard. The same five approval voters had cast similar “Yes”votes regarding the matter at the Oct. 16 meeting.
Rosen and Best had expressed the most vehement sentiment against the polling site reduction, which had been stated would create a savings of $2,600 to the district. Rosen reiterated on Tuesday his belief that reducing polling sites will adversely affect Frontier residents and their ability to vote.
“It hurts senior citizens as well as residents in the district who have many activities to attend to and may work more than one job,” said Rosen, who added that he believes that the site reduction matter would have been brought to resolution by its supporters on the board even if no cost savings would have been associated with the item.
Plarr noted that absentee ballots are available to residents who wish to vote but cannot make attendance at the single polling site. The board president added that garnering any cost savings is ultra-important, given the difficult economic climate facing Frontier and nearly all Western New York school districts in their budget planning.
In related financial matters discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent James Bodziak outlined preliminary budget parameters facing Frontier in preparation for the 2013-14 school year. According to the superintendent, property taxes are initially slated to increase 2.6 percent (or $883,959) under the established tax cap levy. Additional projections include sales tax being increased 2.7 percent, or $142,290; and state aid being hiked by 2.4 percent, or $654,826. Due to district reserves being appropriated for the current school year in an amount of $1,561,790, there are no additional reserves listed as being available for 2013-14.
Further, district staffing is slated to remain the same as 2012-13, with payroll increasing by just over 3 percent, or $1,128,223. Employee benefits are projected to hike by 5.6 percent, or $959,065, while BOCES services will remain the same, with cost increases of 3.5 percent, or $212,364. Debt services are said to be slightly decreased, while supplies, equipment and contractual expenses are slated to jointly increase by more than $91,000.
A subsequent brainstorming session by board members brought about a variety of ideas in regards to financial planning. Lalka suggested installing retirement incentives for district support personnel, while Best stated that superseding the expected tax cap levy of 2.6 percent may be an scenario in which the district may have to enter.
Plarr said it is important that the district closely look at programs that service just a handful of students, and to pursue other subsequent options for the programs, such as perhaps implementing shared services through other school districts or community colleges. Community education was another area Plarr mentioned that the district can hypothetically look into seeing if it is financially sustainable.
“If we’re losing money (in servicing a certain program), we need to evaluate and look into what we’d (possibly cut),” said Plarr. “Sometimes the right thing (to do) is the hardest thing to do.”
Bodziak, who noted that Frontier’s reserves are at their lowest point since he’s been heading the district, said exploring all ideas is important for district officials to consider.
“Thinking outside the box needs to be looked at,” Bodziak said.