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Frontier School Board restores positions in budget

Frontier Central School Board members spent two-and-half hours Monday night agonizing over how the $77.03 million to be allocated in next year’s budget would be spent.

At one point, it looked like Tuesday night’s budget vote would be postponed, because there were not enough votes for it to pass. But in the end, three staff jobs and three potential teacher positions were added back into the budget.

Board President Patrick T. Boyle said “I don’t like it,” but if that’s what it takes to get seven votes, he went along with it.

Members Janet MacGregor Plarr, Martin Lalka and Thomas Best Jr. were the most vocal in questioning some of the cuts made in the proposed 2015-16 budget.

The proposed budget increases spending 3.72 percent, and reduces staffing by 16 full-time equivalent positions, while adding four teachers at the middle school. The print shop would transition to a copy center, and two jobs there would be eliminated. There also would be a 10 percent reduction in materials and supplies.

Best called for more transparency in how the district would handle the work now done in the print shop and the nurse practitioner post, also slated to be cut.

“I foresee problems I think should be headed off now,” Best said.

“I’m not saying I am opposed to the $77 million number, I have no problem with the number,” Plarr said, adding that she disagreed with the allocation of the resources. She also said she wanted a copy of the entire budget book, not summaries and small sections.

Lalka said two part-time cleaners should be restored, and Plarr said the number of teaching positions that are in the budget but not filled unless enrollment warrants should be increased from two to five. She also suggested using some of the money in the health insurance line, which is $2 million more than this year, to fund the additions.

The board decided to restore the nurse practitioner, two part-time cleaners and add three contingent teacher positions, which would cost about $350,000.

Superintendent Bret Apthorpe said he would work on switching numbers in the budget before Tuesday’s meeting. But he said the changes do not help eliminate the district’s five-year problem of spending more money than it takes in as revenues.

“We’re going to have this problem next year,” he said. “Part of my commitment to this is to try and bring an end to this.”

He said this “isn’t a happily-ever-after budget,” but is a means to an end. He also said class sizes are too high today, and will be too high next year, because of budget constraints.

“To have more teachers, we have to have these financial problems fixed,” Apthorpe said.