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Frontier budget raises tax rate, preserves programs, reduces staff

Frontier School District taxpayers face a $74.62 million budget that would raise the tax rate by 2.82 percent for the coming school year, cut 4.4 staff positions, but largely leave programs intact.

The new spending plan, recently adopted by the School Board, will go to voters May 17, when the district also will seek voter approval for a $27.57 million capital improvement project, as well as a $1 million proposition to buy 10 new school buses.

"I'm pleased with the budget," Superintendent James Bodziak said. "The board and administration worked collaboratively to preserve the programs we have at Frontier and to preserve class sizes for the most part."

The budget includes cuts for extracurricular clubs with low participation at the elementary schools and activities with low turnout at the middle and high schools. Each of the four elementary schools cut $2,000, while the middle and high schools each trimmed $4,000.

The district also was forced to cut an early bus run at the elementary level.

In all, staff cuts initially totaled 7.9 full-time-equivalent teaching positions. But 3.5 will be eliminated by not filling jobs vacated through retirements -- resulting in a net cut of 4.4. A vacant administrative position that previously had been funded now has been cut.

The projected tax rate increase for Hamburg residents would amount to 66 cents, putting the tax rate at $23.95 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $70,000 would face a yearly tax increase of $46.05; while a home assessed at $100,000 would face a $65.79 yearly tax increase.

Frontier's tax rate for the portion of the district in Eden would be $22.48, up by 62 cents.

The proposed budget increases spending by 2.19 percent from the current spending plan. A public hearing on the budget is set for 7 p.m. May 3 in the district administration building, 5120 Orchard Ave. in Hamburg

District officials are mindful of the challenge in the tight economy to get voter approval secured for a capital project that initially would cost a maximum of $29.75 million. But the district plans to transfer about $2.18 million from its 2008 repair reserve fund, leaving the balance cost at $27.57 million.

Officials have said that if the proposition is approved, a homeowner would face an additional $17 each year in taxes for 16 years on a home assessed at $100,000.

Bodziak said he knows the expenditure could be a tough sell, though district officials emphasize it involves basic repairs and necessary upgrades districtwide -- such as building roofs -- that have been needed for a long time. "There really are no frills in that project," Bodziak said. "It's health and safety items, and improving learning spaces."

Science rooms in the high school, along with home and career teaching areas, would be renovated, while art rooms at the middle and high schools would be redone and a library media center addition built onto the high school in the courtyard area next to the gymnasium's exterior entrance area.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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