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Frontier Central looking to reduce budget

It will get smaller before the budget is adopted, but right now Frontier Central School District is looking at a $4.23 million budget gap.

And while the gap between the projected expenses and revenues will decrease, School Board members know there are some tough decisions ahead as they move through the budget process. Some want to start looking at options now, others on the board want to wait for more exact numbers.

“Although it’s going down, it’s not going down enough,” Board Member Thomas Best said. “I think we have to get moving on knowing what we’re going to do and get a game plan here. It’s going to be drastic.”

Projected expenditures are $75.29 million, and projected revenues are $71.05 million under the current draft of next year’s budget.

Board members approved a retirement incentive for teachers and staff Tuesday night, which should save some money. For those who qualify, the incentives would provide extra money for health insurance after they retire. The deadline for taking part in the incentive is Monday.

Interim Superintendent Paul G. Hashem said more will be known on Tuesday, after crunching the numbers on how many will be retiring. He said administrators also hope to get more information next week from state legislators on whether there will be more education aid coming in the state budget.

“You’re right, we do have to dig down and find out,” Hashem said.

He said he is confident there will be an increase in district revenues, but he doesn’t know how much. He said what the board would do to eliminate a $4.2 million gap would be different than closing a gap of $2 million or $1 million or less.

“It’s a matter of when do we really want to start looking at this,” Hashem said. “Do we want to start looking at this preliminarily, and start the angst that’s involved with a $4.2 million [gap] or do we want to wait a couple weeks and see whether or not we can get that down a little bit further?”

He said waiting a week or two should allow the district to firm up some projections.

“We’ll have enough time,” he said. “We basically have two months.”

“It’s just really disappointing and disconcerting that our state leaders don’t take the education of our youth as seriously as they should,” Board President Janet MacGregor Plarr said. “I don’t think the general public realizes all the obstacles that we come up against. And then we’re the bad guys who increase class sizes or cut programs.”

“If the politicians don’t come through, doomsday is here,” Best warned.

Board member Patrick T. Boyle said he would rather wait a couple weeks to see how receptive Albany will be to schools.

But Board Member Jack D. Chiappone said he did not want to be forced to make decisions at the 11th hour like last year.

“That’s why I voted no for it. I think we should have those figures ahead of time. If we have to make adjustments to those figures, make adjustments,” Chiappone said, adding he would vote against the budget again if options were not presented well in advance.

Hashem said the board could talk specific cuts next week, but it would involve personnel and would need to be in executive session. He also said he wants to avoid premature release of details of that conversation by anyone taking part in the executive session.

One way the district hopes to obtain more state aid is to have the state do away with the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a reduction in aid which was instituted in 2010 to help the state bridge its budget gap. But the adjustment has been made to the state aid formula every year since then. Board members called on the state to exempt education aid from the Gap Elimination Adjustment, saying the district has lost more than $24.7 million in aid since 2010.