Budget pain in the Frontier Central School District was not unexpected Tuesday night, given the nearly $2.4 million budget gap that was projected earlier this month but has since been whittled to $1.87 million.
However, that didn’t stop residents and staff from jamming the School Board meeting to hear the latest preliminary budget draft, which includes proposed staff reductions totaling a cumulative 35.53 full-time equivalent positions to help shave $1.34 million for the 2013-14 school year.
In all, the equivalent of 15.7 full-time teaching positions and the equivalent of 19.83 full-time support staff are on the chopping block, plus an unspecified number of retirements.
The proposed staff cuts would take a $1.69 million bite out of expenses, but when retirement savings are factored in, that figure is estimated to be $1.34 million. The estimated retirement savings still are not a solid number but are pegged at $353,223.
Given those projected staff trims, Frontier’s revised budget shortfall of $1.87 million, to get to the 3.51 percent allowable tax cap, would shrink to $531,675.
“We have a long way to go,” Superintendent James Bodziak said.
District officials are getting $25,323,768 in state aid for next school year, up 3.37 percent from the previous year. The administration was happy to get some increase but said the reduced aid over the previous few years was a big reason for the current budget crunch.
“It will help us, but it won’t eliminate the deficit I project at all,” Bodziak said of the state aid number Wednesday. “It will reduce it a little. We’re still working the numbers. ... I was hoping the extra state aid would wipe out the deficit and allow us to bring some of the staff back that we’re going to have to reduce.”
School officials are doing what they can to squeeze “every nickel we can,” Bodziak told the board. “We’re looking at every staff member who has put in for retirement or is leaving the district for another job,” he said.
After Bodziak finished his updated budget overview, it didn’t take long for union chiefs to voice their concerns in front of a board room packed with an estimated 65 residents, parents and teachers.
“I understand these are difficult decisions,” said Renee Kumiega, president of the Frontier Teachers Association. “But any cut of an educator will have an adverse effect on the children, whether it is class size or course selection ... I’m asking you, pleading, even begging, please consider our students.”
The head of the Frontier Central Employees Association, representing 394 members in transportation, custodial, clerical and food service, said the news was very disappointing. Kris Passinault, president of the union, said her union lost 14 positions through budget cuts last year, but in the end, she said, it amounted to 37 since there are bumping rights, and some employees work only two to four hours a day.
“It’s a domino effect, and it affects so many,” said Passinault, a 41-year district employee who is retiring this year.
Amy Larosa, a district reading teacher, underscored the importance of not cutting reading staff when there is such a critical need to help children read at an early age. “We want these kids to be literate and productive,” she said. “We have to give these kids the tools young.”
The board meets April 9 but is considering a special meeting April 16 as well.