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A fifth draft of the Fredonia Central School District budget for 2005-06 totals $24,599,517, a decrease of $1.5 million from the prior draft.

District Business Administrator John Forbes made the presentation at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting.

The district's final budget proposal is expected at the board's April 26 meeting at 7 p.m. in the high school library.

A budget hearing is scheduled for May 10, and the district votes on the budget May 17.

Forbes told the board that using the current proposal, the Town of Pomfret, which is 85 percent of the tax levy, would have an $89.15 per $1,000 assessed valuation tax rate. This is an increase of $3.22 per $1,000.

Speaking of other increases, Forbes noted salaries and benefits jumped from $14.9 million to $15.7 million, an increase of 4.97 percent. Teacher retirement increased $409,893. Due to a rise in minimum wage, the cleaning service contract increased $83,678.

State aid is projected at $12.1 million, an increase of $397,756, and federal aid is projected at $13.2 million, an increase of $420,386.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, one district resident noted that in 1996, there were 2,117 students in the district, and it is projected that in 2005 there will be 1,700, with a continued declining trend.

He added that over this period of time, however, there has been an estimated 31 percent increase in administration salary costs.

In other business, the board accepted the retirement June 30 of elementary school principal Frank Grates, who has been with the district for 38 years.

It was again announced that petitions from candidates for the School Board are due April 18 for the May 17 board elections. Susan Wheeler, who has served on the board for five years, is not seeking re-election. Hers is the only open position.

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