Unknowns remain with Fredonia school budget

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy Fredonia School Business Administrator John Forbes updates board of education members on the 2018-19 budget during Tuesday’s meeting.

The Fredonia Central School District is at the front end of the budget process. And like many districts, several budget unknowns remain.

John Forbes, school business administrator, presented a 2018-19 budget report during Tuesday’s board of education meeting. Unknowns inside the budget include final employment benefit figures, the district’s tax cap calculation, teacher retirements, final BOCES costs, federal grants and state aid.

The budget shows a total spending of $34.1 million. Salaries and benefits make up about $22 million while contractual expenses total $3.4 million and BOCES costs about $3.7 million.

With increases in certain areas and uncertainties surrounding funding sources like Title I grants, the preliminary budget shows an increase of $1.6 million, or 5.2 percent over the current year. As of today, the district is projecting a state aid increase of about $227,000. But that could change as state legislators work to enact an on-time budget by March.

“On the revenue side, we don’t have the final foundation or categorical aids,” Forbes said. “We do have the governor’s proposal, but we don’t have the legislative adjustments to those. Typically, we have received more from the (state) Legislature than the governor.”

Figures within the budget show instructional salaries up 4.1 percent and noninstructional salaries increasing by 4.9 percent. Workers’ compensation costs are down due to a decrease in claims over the past two years. Materials and supplies are up 12 percent, or $82,000.

Contractual expenses for BOCES services are up 14.2 percent, or $702,000, over the last year. Forbes said they don’t have final menu options for occupational education, physical therapy, speech and counseling services provided to students. “That’ll change as we go through and evaluate what students will be going into what program,” he said.

Roughly $187,000 of the BOCES expense is driven by the number of occupational education students. Typically, Forbes said the district has between 38 to 41 students annually. This year, that number is projected to rise to 60.

The district’s special education budget is up by $441,000. Forbes said part of the increase is due to the number of students attending programs this year.

Forbes said the district needs to reduce expenditures or increase revenues or appropriated fund balance in the amount of $975,921 to meet the tax cap. The maximum adjusted tax levy is $16,272,578. The current proposed levy is $17,248,499.

“We’ll go through each section of the budget, academic, extracurricular, athletics, materials, supplies and take a look at what I’ve budgeted versus what’s needed to produce the product we want,” he said.