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District officials addressing likely cuts

Frontier School District officials are preaching a refrain similar to other area school districts facing a budget crunch: possible staff cuts and tweaking academic programs to streamline its $75.2 million preliminary budget for the 2011-12 school year.

"We're looking at staffing across the board, kindergarten through 12th grade," said Superintendent James Bodziak during a recent discussion of the School Board's preliminary 2011-12 budget. "With enrollment trends going down, we cannot sustain the staffing we have today. We need to see if the unions are willing to work with us."

Frontier is projecting 113 fewer students for next year, putting the total student base at 5,028 students districtwide. The district has seen a steady decline in enrollment since 2008-09, when enrollment was 5,349 students.

Administrators said they are looking at possibly cutting early and late bus runs, eyeing potential staff reductions and reducing poorly attended school clubs.

"I think we have to do less with less," said Stanley Figiel, board vice president. "This is my 38th year on the board, and I don't remember a budget as difficult as this one."

Bodziak said the district will try to keep educational programs intact, though some restructuring may be in line. "The programs may be morphed into something a little bit different than what Frontier has been used to," he said. "Some programs may be delivered in a different way."

The administration is still crafting a budget proposal that it expects to have formally ready in early April for the board. The board is meeting in a special budget work session Tuesday, before it plans to adopt a spending plan at its April 12 meeting.

At the same time budget preparations are under way, the board last week adopted a $29.75 million districtwide capital improvement project that it will ask voters to approve May 17.

Like neighboring districts, Frontier is forced to take a hard look at budget trims. Though the projected tax rate increase was roughly pegged at 1 percent, Bodziak said that likely might be more between a 1 percent to 3 percent increase.

"We have to change. We cannot continue to do business as usual," Bodziak said.

Spending is up by 3 percent, bringing appropriations to $75.2 million. Major hits facing the district include a $725,000 increase in the district's contribution to the state Teacher Retirement System and another $475,000 increase in what the district pays into the state Employee Retirement System. Health insurance costs also are targeted to increase by $325,000.

Also taking a bite out of the budget is $100,000 more budgeted for higher fuel costs, a $270,000 increase in debt services, and a $300,000 increase in student tuition for special education and foster child placements.

State aid under the governor's proposal is only down by $159,233 -- but the district is able to cushion some budget woes by using $1.79 million in a one-year use of federal jobs dollars for 2011-12. That is a one-year item only, representing money the district could use to save jobs, but Frontier chose to set it aside and use it for the upcoming school year.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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