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SOUTH DEERFIELD — In her March 5 presentation, Shelley Poreda, director of business administration for the Frontier Regional School District, or FRSD, summarized the intentions behind the fiscal year 2025 budget.

“Our goal in budget development is to develop a needs based, student centered budget,” Poreda said. The district is “balancing level services and also addressing new needs and initiatives.”

Poreda and Superintendent Darius Modestow face wage and other increases built into the budget by existing contractual obligations. A 2% cost of living increase, or COLA, plus step increases averaging 4% created a district wide bump in wages of $155,012. Non-wage increases due to insurance costs, retirement contributions, transportation and maintenance of grounds and buildings went up $175,025.

The built in cost increases pushed the level service budget, with no new initiatives, 2.62% higher than last year. That increase will boost spending by $330,037. Retirements and attrition reduced the size of that increase by about $70,000.

Officials from each town learned the minimum contribution required by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for each town. Poreda explained the minimum contribution is reached by DESE using a complicated formula based on the average income of town residents, real estate values and several other factors. Conway’s levy will increase $38,241 while Deerfield’s will decrease by $11,950. Whately’s levy payment will jump by $67,296. Sunderland’s school bill will increase $18,357.

Poreda commented the FRSD budget has grown just 13.29%, or $1.5 million, in the last five years. Geoffrey Kravitz, town administrator for Sunderland, observed that his town consistently absorbs sizable increases.

“In that [five-year] timeframe, Sunderland’s levy has gone up $554,000 and increased about 30%,” Kravitz said.

Poreda discussed new requests and initiatives added .52% to the budget, or $65,000. A new full time athletic director who doubles as a physical education teacher, stronger support for new teachers and teacher stipends, accounted for the increase. A full time athletic trainer was not approved, shaving the increase by $50,000.

Poreda explained that outside consultants were hired to support new teachers. The support, along with teacher stipends, were paid with Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief money, ESSER grants from the federal government. Those coronavirus pandemic era grants will not be available in the future, necessitating a homegrown source for those funds.

According to the proposed budget, 47% of spending goes to instruction, or $6 million. Employee benefits cost $2.7 million. The primary driver of pupil services is transportation, adding $1.6 million in costs. Maintenance of grounds and buildings adds $1.3 million to the budget.

Poreda said 55% of the budget is devoted to the instruction of students.
Chapter 70 aid from the state, the largest non-member source of funds, increased just $30 per student this year. Modestow explained that fewer students attend the district, which entered a “hold harmless” status when the district would see an overall reduction in aid from last year, according to the Chapter 70 formula, but does not.

Poreda said the state transportation reimbursement will provide $230,000 in aid. Excess and deficiencies, an account that allows the district to set aside 5% of its budget for future uses, will be tapped for another $200,000. Member towns will also pay an assessment, based on enrollments, totaling $3,939,568. Revolving funds and grants, so-called special revenues, will contribute another $1,781,833.

The total budget for FY25 will be $14,772,071. Member towns will pay $9,553,573.

Inflationary trends also impacted the budget.

“Our typical budget for building and grounds maintenance is $70,000 to $75,000,” Poreda said. “We’re increasing that to $100,000 in the new year … Any types of repairs we’re doing are significantly higher than they were.”
Deerfield saw the highest increase, $7,500, in its capital and debt assessment. The total increase of $17,045 will be used to replace a fire alarm panel and make interest payments.

The School Choice program, which enables students to attend a district of their choosing, continues to be a bright spot for FRSD. The district, Modestow said, increased enrollments by 100 while the county has been declining in population. Officials attending from Deerfield said the elementary school there has seen a reduction in some grade levels from three classrooms to two.

The district will see an increase of 10 students going to Franklin County Technical School. Franklin Tech charges $27,000 per students while the per pupil cost at FRSD is less than half, or $13,000 per pupil. Nonetheless, Poreda does not anticipate any big fiscal surprises for the district in the coming year.

“The last scary surprising factor came in last week, with the transportation bit, and that’s been accounted for,” Poreda said. “I don’t anticipate an emergency.”

dpruyne@thereminder.com | + posts