Fredonia School Board members seek more financial information

OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford Business Administrator John Forbes, left, sits next to Board Member Brian Aldrich at Tuesday’s Fredonia Board of Education meeting.

Two Fredonia Board of Education members made a push Tuesday for more information on the district’s spending this school year, as a tool that could be used to cut costs during the upcoming 2019-20 budget planning process.

Brian Aldrich and Tom Hawk spurred the discussion at the board’s regular meeting, after Business Administrator John Forbes presented revised November 2018 numbers. He said he came out with the original data too early, because unanticipated spending then happened.

Aldrich said that every year the school district’s spending plan is like a road map, “and there’s little things that happen throughout the year that diverge from that route. Some of them are big, some are small.”

To that end, he suggested district officials take a comprehensive look at the 2018-19 budget “and see where we are headed.” Aldrich also suggested an analysis of spending from the 2017-18 year.

Forbes replied that he’s been with the district a long time and many past boards have not wanted such detailed information. However, he said he could research and present such statistics if desired.

“A lot of what John gives us in paper form is not the actual status,” Hawk said. “We may be tracking one line in this information report, then see things change drastically … but find that it’ll correct itself in the next month.”

Forbes repeated that he could offer more detailed information, “but I hadn’t done that because I hadn’t seen the desire.”

Superintendent Jeff Sortisio said he had gone over the June 2018 revenue report, line by line, with Forbes earlier that day. “We can go over that detail monthly if the board desires, but that’s a lot of information,” he said.

Aldrich replied that while he didn’t want to see every line item, he should see bigger-money items. He repeated an earlier statement that if the district’s 2018-19 budget was seen as a road map intended to get it to Disney World, it “didn’t get us to Disney World, it got us to Universal Studios.”

“Some of the paperwork is incorrect when it gets to us,” Hawk said, “and that is due to the formatting, as Mr. Forbes has told me, that is set into the computer.” He continued that he is concerned that the district keeps asking the taxpayers for money that it does not need to because it has a sizable surplus.

Forbes said, “Over the last 10 years, the mantra of the district was, ‘we have to build fund balance, we have to build surplus.'”

Aldrich said the district should base its budget on the actual spending done in each line item the previous year, not the budgeted amounts in the lines. “Let’s look at three years of actual numbers line by line when we do the budget,” he said. Board members gave their assent, when asked by Board President Michael Bobseine, to such an idea.

Aldrich closed the discussion by stressing that his statements didn’t mean he had a problem with Forbes. “There’s not friction here,” he said. “I appreciate what Mr. Forbes does, he does a great job … it’s to get a better understanding of these numbers.”

Also Tuesday, Athletic Director Greg Lauer said during a presentation that the varsity football team will not combine with any other team and be reclassified as Class C South next season. He noted that the 2018 season’s 8-1 league championship team contained 32 players from Fredonia and just two from the Brocton school district, the Hillbillies’ football partner last fall.

Other points Lauer made included:

¯ Due to re-seeding of their field, the soccer teams will play their games at either SUNY Fredonia or Dunkirk High School next season.

¯ The girls varsity swimming team, combined with Brocton this season, will join with Silver Creek and Forestville next year.

¯ Seven 2018 fall sports teams were named state Scholar Athlete Teams, meaning 75 percent of the rosters had grade averages of 90 percent or higher. The football team missed the designation by less than a percentage point.

¯ Four JV football athletes suffered concussions last season, as did two girls varsity soccer players and one varsity football player.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the school board agreed to hold a workshop Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. to consider whether to adopt a strategic planning strategy with outside consultants or to hold a series of community forums. The board’s next regular meeting is set for Jan. 22.