In May, Fredonia voters approved a 2.64 percent budget increase for the 2011-2012 school year. While often times the tax warrant approved by school boards in August rarely wavers far from the original estimates, that wasn't the case this time for Fredonia.
During Tuesday's regular school board of education meeting, the school board approved several changes that will affect the upcoming school year. In total, 12 positions in various categories and one sport were reinstated, maintenance funds were approved, and the tax levy was reduced by $77,000. This was all thanks in part to what can best be described as a budget preparation jackpot.
"When I do the budget I have two categories of fund balance, the category which I believe to be locked in as additional money above and beyond what we expect, and I also have another category where if all things happen the way we hope they happen we may have these other amounts to fund balance," explains Business Manager John Forbes. "Typically that second column ends up being an eighth of it, or a quarter of it, but in this particular situation virtually every single line I had those extras in all hit in our favor and that's how the fund balance took the increase we hadn't really anticipated."
OBSERVER Photo by Michael Rukavina
Business Manager John Forbes explains how the Fredonia Central School Board of Education was able to approve an adjusted budget with an additional $342,897 in spending taken from the unappropriated fund balance for staff, indoor track and maintenance work.
According to Forbes the resulting difference was about a $1 million increase in the fund balance.
"It's a combination of all the different budget codes that are coming in and spending less than you anticipated or you're getting more revenue in some source," Forbes said. "Health insurance, utilities, teachers retirement system contribution, transportation, unemployment claims and special education."
The lesser expenses in the areas mentioned resulted in the district being above the recommended fund balance of 4 percent.
Given that fact, the board approved several budget related items which increased the budget in the amount of $342,897 making the 2011-2012 budget $27,346,798, about an $11,000 increase from the 2010-2011 budget.
On top of that, the district approved that $77,000 of additional unappropriated fund balance go towards the tax levy. The result was a reduction in the town of Pomfret tax rate from the estimated $109.10 per thousand dollars of assessed value down to $108.28; an increase in the town of Arkwright from $36.56 to $36.58; and increase in the town of Portland from $34.84 to $35.69; a decrease in the town of Sheridan from $31.86 to $31.61; and an decrease in the town of Dunkirk from $27.36 to $27.15.
Forbes explained that once the district plugs in the new equalization rates from the state and the new assessments that can change the tax rate, and a change in one town's equalization rate can affect how much another town pays in school taxes.
With the additional funds the board also approved 12 positions, including, a .54 K-4 APPR teacher, .54 6-12 APPR teacher, .18 6-12 science teacher, a full-time 6-12 careers teacher, two teacher aides, one full-time special education teacher, .73 6-12 ELA teacher, and four special class aides.
Superintendent Paul DiFonzo stated that over the last two weeks he asked administrators to go back and look to see where the district had needs, now that the class schedules were complete.
"We're putting back some staff positions. Some are required, for instance, we're putting in eight aides, three are replacements and five of the aides are required by Individual Academic Plans (IAP) because they're special class aides," he said. "We're putting in a special education teacher at half-time and half-time elementary because our numbers have increase in special ed and also in the pre-k situation and there are mandates we have to follow there."
Six aides are technically new positions, while two are filling positions left open by one retirement and one resignation this year. One aide is a general aide being shifted to help a new district family that doesn't speak English, and four other aides are designated to special classes.
DiFonzo explained the careers teacher allows the district to move another teacher into an Academic Intervention Services position in the elementary school where the district did not want to reduce. The two .54 APPR teachers allow the district to fill administrative assistant positions to allow the district to address the new Annual Professional Performance Reviews and other administrative responsibilities that DiFonzo said have grown over the last two or three years
According to high School Principal Todd Crandall, the .18 science teacher position will allow him to split an AIS living environment biology class from 20 into 10 students per class.
"We feel these are the spending additions that will help us to have a better program," DiFonzo said. "It's not perfect, we'd obviously like to put more back in but we also have to keep in mind that we have to deal with five years of a 2 percent tax cap."
In the May budget the board eliminated JV indoor track. That was reinstated by the board thanks to the additional funding available and an agreement made with the Dunkirk City School District.
"We've discussed this with Dunkirk and Dunkirk is willing to split that cost with us so we're going to reinstate the indoor track program," DiFonzo said.
He added that the district talked about modified football but taking into consideration the arrangements made with the Fredonia Midget Football and the fact there are only two other teams left to compete against in modified football no changes were made. The total cost for indoor track is estimated to be reduced by about $2,000 based on the sharing of transportation with Dunkirk. Both teams are expected to compete as separate teams at meets.
Also included in the $342,897 of additional spending is $50,000 for contractual maintenance expenses to repair brickwork around the grounds.
"A few years ago we did have a budget that had a 9 percent tax increase. We knew that would be difficult for our community to swallow, we understood that. We talked about where we would be two or three years from now if we took that tax increase and just put it out there ... the budget did fail and we were on a contingency budget this year but we did increase our revenue," DiFonzo said explaining the adjustments. "When we built our budget this year we did put quite a bit of fund balance in different areas, slots like alternative education which we know are expensive areas. Throughout our budget where we've had unexpected costs in the past years we built in additional amounts. In two particular areas, our teacher retirement system and special education areas we had unplanned for expense reductions of about $500,000. So all-in-all we are in extremely good shape regarding our fund balance at this point."
The additional spending from the unappropriated fund balance, according to Forbes, has put the district just over the recommended 4 percent.
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