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Potential fiscal crunch has put Frontier schools in state of flux

Frontier school officials are remaining tight-lipped about how they will handle a potentially severe fiscal crunch in the face of threatened state aid cuts.

"The reason I am not ready to bring you anything concrete is that revenues right now are in a state of flux," Superintendent Ronald G. DeCarli told the School Board on Tuesday. "I cannot sit here and play out all kinds of scenarios and play the Frenetti game."

Though the administration has privately discussed impacts of a potential $5 million shortfall, DeCarli said none of that would be disclosed now until district officials have a better sense in the next month as to what the government aid picture might really be.

"To publicly share this out, with all kinds of scenarios -- I cannot do that until I know what the numbers on our aid will be," he said.

Frontier faces at least $2.1 million less in state aid in its 2009-10 budget, on top of an anticipated $3 million increase in expenses.

Erie County sales tax revenues have dipped, though district officials said they will budget the expected revenue for next year at the same level as this current fiscal year.

DeCarli noted that the federal economic stimulus package is still being hammered out, but there are no guarantees that federal aid will plug the state aid gap. "That is a lot of rhetoric out there," he said. "There is nothing substantial there."

School officials hope that between now and mid-March, they have a clearer picture of what to expect in aid from the state and Uncle Sam. "Then we can look at how we can meet expenditures," DeCarli said.

If, on March 10, I'm hearing the same discussion, we're all in trouble."

"Hopefully, the bottom line on aid will not be as bad as this worst-case scenario projects," board member Michael Comerford said. "Come March, we have to put everything on the table."

The district's $70.4 million budget carries a $25 million tax levy and state aid totaling $30.5 million.

In another matter, the School Board voted, 6-2, to adopt its 2009-10 school calendar, with school beginning Sept. 9, opting to start after Labor Day.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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