Frontier puts 9.19 mills on ballot

NEW MATAMORAS – The Frontier Local Board of Education voted Monday to submit to voters a five-year, 9.19-mill emergency levy aimed at keeping the district in the black or close to it for at least a couple of years.

The levy, which would raise $550,000 a year, was recommended by Superintendent Bruce Kidder from among three options. One would have generated $500,000 a year with a rate of 8.36 mills, and the third would have brought in $600,000 annually at 10.03 mills.

The district spent about $600,000 more in the 2012-13 fiscal year just ended than it took in, dropping its cash reserve under $1 million, Kidder said.

The $550,000 levy “keeps us stable at about a million dollars the next two years, and then it starts to eat into the reserve again,” said Treasurer Frank Antill, citing anticipated stable revenue coupled with rising costs.

Board member Jeff Knowlton asked if passage of the levy would allow the district to restore any programs that have been cut in recent years. Kidder said the more immediate impact is that it would allow efforts to retain two intervention teachers and resume music in the elementary schools sustainable beyond the coming year.

“That would make that a much easier proposition for me if this goes through,” he said.

The district lost about $60,000 that supported some teachers who provide additional classroom intervention when cuts to education funding as a result of the federal sequestration kicked in, Antill said. In addition, the final state funding formula provided about $100,000 or so less than the district anticipated as the budget bill made its way through the General Assembly.

Antill noted another budget change means the levy will cost residents a little more than if it had been on the ballot and approved last year. The final compromise version of the budget bill eliminated the 12.5 percent rollback the state paid on residential property taxes, so taxpayers are now responsible for 100 percent of the amount instead of 87.5 percent.

The levy will cost the owner of a home valued at $50,000 an annual $160.83. With the rollback, it would have been about $140.72.

The vote on the levy was 4-0, with board Vice President Ricky Kroll absent.

In other business, the board approved, 4-0, an increase in athletic event and season pass prices.

“We’re more in line now with some of the other schools in the area,” Antill said.

Individual tickets for varsity events rose $1 each, while family and adult passes increased about 25 percent. Passes for students were raised about $5, because, Kidder said, they did not want to price kids out of their school sporting events. Varsity tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students except for baseball and softball which are $5 for adults and $3 for students.

Board member Jeff Lauer noted the athletic programs are in the red.

“There’s no break-even sports,” he said.

Lauer asked Kidder if the price increases would remove the need for a previously discussed pay-to-participate program.

“We’re trying to hold off on that,” the superintendent said. “We’re just trying to come close to not going in debt as much.”