FREDONIA – The state’s financial aid formula for school districts is proving painful to Fredonia school administrators as the school anticipates another year of reduced state aid.
The net loss in state aid for the district in the 2014-15 school year is about $1.3 million, Superintendent Paul DiFonzo told the School Board Tuesday.
“The formula works against us,” said DiFonzo. He said the calculations for the district include wealth and some other factors, which would reduce the amount paid under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal for public schools.
DiFonzo said the school has lost state aid at a steady rate for several years. “There are a handful of districts that are not as wealthy as this formula appears to show us,” he said.
He said the district used to base its funding on about 50 percent state aid and 50 percent local tax share. But over the last few years, the state aid provides about 38 percent of the district’s revenue. “Looking at other districts in Chautauqua County, Fredonia has made out poorly,” said DiFonzo.
He said another factor that has reduced aid was that students live closer to the school in Fredonia than in rural districts in the county.
He said Fredonia has lost $7 million in state aid over the last four years.
Compiling figures for next year’s budget has become more complicated as School Business Manager John Forbes said that the district will need to try to stay within the tax cap as outlined by the state. He said that amount would raise only about $120,000 with new taxes.
“We only have a $1.25 million fund balance, and we can’t drain it,” said DiFonzo.
The superintendent said the district is also faced with increased costs for new textbooks and supplies based on the Common Core curriculum that was introduced last year.
The board heard a presentation on core curriculum costs for elementary grade teachers. The teachers reported that many of the materials have to be copied in the school’s print shop, resulting in extra costs in labor and paper.
DiFonzo said he will provide information to state leaders about the issues in the formula and the losses for his district in hopes that it can be refigured.
In another matter, board members were told about a proposed eighth-grade trip to New York City in December.
It was announced that the next board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The board’s policy committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The school’s administration will begin plans for the capital improvement projects and Excel projects that were approved by voters in the special election in December. A plan for the projects is expected to be submitted to the state Education Department for approval in the next few months.