Through various state aid adjustments and cost reductions, accompanied by the still-standing elimination of more than 35 staffing positions, Frontier School District officials have stated they are continuing to bridge a budget gap and are proposing a 2013-14 fiscal plan that includes a tax rate increase of 3.51 percent, a number that represents the maximum allowable levy hike above the 2 percent tax cap.
Total budget expenditures are slated to stand at $72.7 million, which represents an increase of $430,679, or 0.59 percent, from the current budget. The 2013-14 tax rate for district residents is proposed at $25.20 per $1,000 of assessed property value, meaning a hike of 3.08 percent (or 75 cents) in spending from 2012-13. The proposed 3.51 tax rate increase would require a 50 percent-plus-one voter approval, rather than a 60-percent approval rate required for any proposed tax hike above the aforementioned 3.51 percent, which had been established as the maximum allowable amount per the calculated tax cap formula.
Homeowners having houses assessed at $70,000 in the district are projected to have tax bills for 2013-14 at $1,763.81, which would represent an increase from 2012-13 of $52.67. Residents having houses assessed at $100,000 and $130,000, meanwhile, would have tax bills of $2,519.72 and $3,275.64, representing annual hikes of $75.25 and $97.82.
Superintendent James Bodziak and School Business Manager Richard Calipari presented the 2013-14 budget parameters during last Tuesday’s (April 9) meeting of the Frontier Central School Board. The board is scheduled to next meet on April 23, followed by a budget hearing taking place on May 7 and the annual budget vote occurring on May 21. Bodziak stated that district officials have worked to bridge a budget gap that was about $2.4 million in late February, and subsequently $531,675 on March 26, through various means. The incorporation of $254,811 from increased New York State aid, to go along with $193,102 from reductions in estimated costs for BOCES Health Care Trust, recently reduced the remaining gap to $83,762.
It was then determined that the district would be receiving $110,000 in retroactive state aid, an amount that would cover the remaining budget gap. The retroactive amount was described to have been established after it was determined that state officials had underfunded Frontier $110,000 in 2009.
Additionally, and to the interest of many in attendance, it was stated that the aforementioned cuts to staffing would remain in place to further balance the budget. It had been noted at the board’s March 26 meeting that about $1.7 million in savings would be generated through the elimination of 19.8 full time equivalent support staff positions and 15.7 FTE teaching positions. The cuts were stated by Bodziak as being across the board in terms of area, and $353,223 of the $1.7 million in savings was said to be represented through retirements. Bodziak additionally stated that district officials are not projecting cuts to athletic or music programs, and are not looking to adversely affect the ratio of class sizes.
“If we find (additional) savings, we’d like to restore various positions within the budget,” said Bodziak,,
The superintendent said district principals are to be commended for presenting valuable outlines and descriptions of school programs.
All field trips taking place outside the district are cut for 2013-14, to go along with the district’s elimination of funding for the longtime Emergency Medical Technician course taken by Frontier High School students through a program at Hamburg High School. The EMT course had been offered for more than 30 years as a shared service to both Frontier and Hamburg High School students, with completion of the course enabling pupils to take the New York State EMT certification exam. It had previously been noted that hundreds of students over the years had completed the EMT course and subsequently went on to work in various capacities in the health care industrys.
Bodziak stated that cost of the EMT course had been $1,000 per participating student, with 15-20 pupils from Frontier typically taking part in the course. The superintendent said discussion between Frontier School District officials and those in the Hamburg School District, as well as Frontier’s talks with local fire companies, have taken place with the hope of generating “creative ways” to maintain the EMT program in a tweaked manner. One such possibility was listed as being local fire departments sponsoring students for the pupils’ participation in the EMT course- with the agreement including that the student joins the donating fire company as a volunteer- and presenting the check to the district toward the course. Another possibility was described as being maintenance of the course through the continued shared-service/give-and-take agreement between Hamburg and Frontier, with Lake Shore recently being added as a participating school district member of this joint cooperative pact.
Various individuals in attendance spoke during public comment session and advocated for the importance of keeping intact the EMT course as a valuable and necessary tool of instruction to district students. Jeannie Curry said she has been a longtime proponent of the course, noting her pleas made to the district two years ago to keep alive the EMT class in the wake of looming budget cuts. Curry stated that the course provides important post-high school job preparation for pupils, as well as a foundation for medical field opportunities.