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Frontier School District early budget discussion show slight tax hike

Although it was reiterated by district officials that the budget planning process for 2013-14 is still in its considerably early stages, early revenue projections show that residents in the Frontier Central School District could see a tax rate increase as part of the next academic year’s fiscal plan.

School Business Manager Richard Calipari and district Superintendent James Bodziak presented at last Tuesday’s (Jan.y 22) school board meeting an outlined discussion that focused on preliminary budget revenues, findings that revealed a currently anticipated real property tax amount of $34,802,978 for 2013-14. That fiscal amount would represent just over a 3 percent increase- or $1,020,440- from the 2012-13 real property tax amount. The projected tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property value for district residents would stand at $25.08, representing a 63-cent increase from the 2012-13 rate of $24.45.

The tax levy limit for the district currently is listed at $34,208,857, although other factors, including tax base growth, Payment in Lieu of Taxes and tax exemptions, and Teachers Retirement System payments, among certain items- bump up the hypothetically real property tax amount to $34,802,978. The maximum allowable levy as part of the tax cap calculation is anticipated at 3.02 percent, compared to 2.7 percent in 2012-13.

Bodziak reminded those in attendance at the meeting that such financial figures are “floating numbers” that are part of the early planning process. He referenced the current academic year’s 2.7 percent maximum allowably levy as a number that had stood at 1.77 percent earlier in the process, representing the often-changing budgetary amounts.

Total district revenues for 2013-14 are projected at $71,615,163, representing a decrease of $55,739 from 2012-13. Anticipated increases are slated in the areas of state aid, jumping $731,414 (primarily in foundation aid) to a listed $27,771,937; and Erie County Sales Tax, hiked $85,284 to a listed $5,413,248. Noted decreases in revenues are projected in the areas of appropriated fund balance, listed at $1,250,000 after the use of $1,561,790; and miscellaneous, down $331,051 to a listed $2,377,000. Calipari attributed the miscellaneous area decrease to the loss of monies in rent of the Frontier Central Learning Center on Southwestern Boulevard. He added that the position of the district’s reserves is currently “not great.”

Bodziak stated that there is approximately $1.7 million remaining in Frontier’s reserves, noting that is not his expectation that district officials will reach further into that area during the budget process.

It was stated that certain areas of scrutiny for budgetary planning include retirement incentives for members of the Frontier Central Teachers Association, along with examining areas of extracurricular and academic parameters that could be consolidated. Maintaining the most essential programs is said to be in the minds of district officials during the budget process.

Recent meetings of the Frontier School Board have included several district academic departments’ members speaking on behalf of the areas of instruction. Tuesday featured district co-chairs of the art program, Laura Glista and Nancy Vernale, explaining what they believe is the paramount importance that art plays in the daily and long-term lives of students. The pair described in depth the success of several art students who had graduated from Frontier- notably Courtney Menard, Keith Conrad, Khrista Richardson and Tyler Boss, and went on to enter a successful during, or post-college career and had written letters to Frontier officials in support of the high school’s art program.

Art-related courses offered at Frontier High include fashion design, jewelry, digital graphics, comic illustration, fine art and Studio in Craft Media. There are 12.7 teaching positions listed in the Frontier School District, including five at Frontier High. All elementary and middle school students are said to have art instruction for at least 40 minutes per academic day. A virtual tour presented Tuesday included the showcase of several artistic ventures undertaken by district pupils, including, at Blasdell Elementary, an Egyptian display; at Big Tree Elementary, 3-Dimensional architecture and use of positive and negative spacing; at Cloverbank Elementary, a Smart Gallery with historical and foreign language displays, as well as “outreach art” to be sent to troops deployed; at Pinehurst Elementary, installation pieces with light shadows, to go along with Imaginitive Learning. A 3-D piece with radial symmetry was depicted at Frontier Middle, while several themes at the high school- including “messy art” with clay, design solutions, and combining science with art- were shown as part of the presentation.

Other inclusions as part of the district’s art program are trips to the Albright Knox Art Gallery, “Empty Bowl” projects conducted through Buffalo State College and exhibitions at Poppy Seed Restaurant and other related locations. Additionally, the Annual Festival of the Arts presentation takes place at the Hub, with a noted $1,500 being generated in 2012 for the Roswell Park Paintball Project. The 9th Annual Festival of the Arts is scheduled for March 23 at the Hub, which is located at 4999 McKinley Parkway.

Board Member Nancy Wood particularly lauded the annual art presentation at the Hub as being “very impressive.”

Glista and Vernale each praised the art staff as presenting the curriculum matter in an effective and unique manner, adding that each instructor crafts their abilities to a certain student age range and talent differentiation. It was further added that it was the hope of those involved in the art program that instructors who were casualties as part of budget constraints- notably 25 percent of the department’s staff has been eliminated over the past two years- can eventually be reinstated.

In other meeting items, the board approved by 6-2 vote, with board members Thomas Best Jr. and Wood casting dissenting “No” votes, the assignment of one inspector from the Erie County Board of Elections to be stationed at the noted, newly single district polling site of the Frontier Central Learning Center during the annual district budget vote on May 21. The total estimated cost of the measure was stated as not to exceed $240, with the purpose of the individual providing assistance to Frontier’s Election Inspectors in the case of technical problems that could occur with any of the four voting machines. Board Members had voted in November- by a 5-4 margin, with Best and Wood among the dissenters on the vote- to consolidate from the usual five polling sites across the district to a single voting location, at the FCLC.

It was further stated Tuesday that various problems had arisen during the May 2012 budget vote that included malfunctions with a polling machine at Cloverbank Elementary.


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