The Frontier School District has closed a $531,675 budget gap for the next school year, but proposed staff reductions totaling nearly 36 full-time equivalent positions would still be part of the $72.7 million budget package.
The proposed budget increases spending by 0.59 percent and includes a tax levy increase of 3.5 percent, the maximum allowed.
The projected tax rate would be $25.20 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up by 75 cents from the current school year.
Under the budget proposal, a taxpayer whose home is assessed at $100,000, would see a tax bill increase of $75.25.
Even though administrators and the School Board Tuesday night praised the elimination of the budget shortfall that at one point in recent weeks had been as high as $2.4 million, many held out hope that some of the projected teaching and support staff cuts could be reversed and mitigated somehow.
Superintendent James C. Bodziak challenged the board to consider what can be done to restore some of the proposed staff reductions without raising the tax levy. No one on the board responded.
“The staff reductions still stand. Any ideas about how we can save more money ... We should look to restore positions in the district,” he said.
Bodziak said a couple of ideas have been “floated” and he specifically mentioned the teachers’ union and support staff union to look to for help, though he stopped short of calling for concessions.
“We’re looking for possible cost-cutting measures to help restore some positions,” Bodziak said in an interview afterward, but declined to elaborate on what those might be.
In all, the equivalent of 16 full-time teaching positions and the equivalent of 20 full-time support staff are on the line to be cut. The district has acknowledged there will be retirements, but that number has not yet been publicly disclosed.
Frontier will see a $1.17 million increase in state financial aid overall, though the most recent increase of $254,811 that came through the state Legislature wasn’t nearly as much as the district had hoped for.
“Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it was somewhat depressing when I saw the extra state aid from the state Legislature,” he said.
Somewhat of a problem is that Erie County sales tax revenues are not increasing as much as way the district had hoped.
“To our chagrin, it’s still lagging behind. We did not receive the kind of sales tax revenue we were anticipating,” Bodziak said.
But Bodziak said the district was notified last week of $110,000 in retroactive state aid it will be receiving dating to 2009, and in the end, that helped close the projected budget shortfall - in addition to the increased state aid. The state in the 2009-10 school year had underpaid Frontier state aid and it can take a few years to be rectified.
“That was like a gift that fell out of the heavens,” Bodziak said.
The new budget proposal, which the board is expected to adopt at its April 23 meeting, does not dismantle music or athletic programs and also aims to keep class sizes at the current level.
“There are some hot spots that we’re watching,” Bodziak said of class sizes.
When the budget goes before voters in May, Frontier residents also will be asked to approve spending $896,090 to buy eight new buses to shore up old ones that the administration said need to be retired, many of which have 130,000 or more miles on them.
The second budget proposition calls for buying five, 66-passenger buses; another two buses that are 30 to 35 passenger vehicles; and one wheelchair bus that can seat 35.