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Frazier board fails to pass spending plan, sets date for special meeting

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Friday, June 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Frazier School Board refused to adopt a $15.3 million final budget for the 2013-2014 school year that called for a 1.2-mill tax increase and spending cuts.

Six of the seven board members who attended Wednesday's meeting voted against the spending plan and directed Superintendent David Blozowich and Business Manager Kevin Mildren to take another look at the budget.

A special meeting has been scheduled for July 8 when the school board will make another attempt to approve the budget.

Solicitor John M. Purcell confirmed that the school board is required by state law to adopt a budget by June 30.

However, Purcell researched the issue and determined that the school district will not face any fines or penalties imposed by the state.

“The school district will have the legal authority to meet payroll, pay its utility bills and other regular expenses until it adopts a budget,” Purcell said. “But the school district will not be allowed to make any discretionary expenditures.”

Mildren said the $15.3 million budget called for a 1.2-mill increase in real estate taxes from 13.3 mills to 14.5 mills. Each mill generates about $280,000 in revenue for the school district.

The millage increase would have cost taxpayers in the school district an additional $60 a year, Mildren said.

School board member Deborah Vargo Alekson expressed concerns that the school district is increasing its debt service with bond issues. The district is in the process of building a new school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students at an estimated cost of $20 million to $24 million.

Vargo Alekson said the district's retirement costs are expected to increase another 4 percent next year.

“I don't want to see a huge tax increase on the taxpayers five years from now because we failed to do what needed to be done,” Vargo Alekson said. “I don't think it's going to be enough to raise the taxes a little each year.

“We're going to reach the point where it's going to hurt the educational programs for our students,” she said. “Class sizes are already going up, and test scores are going down.”

Mildren said the budget did call for cuts in hours for instructional aids.

The school board voted to add a fifth kindergarten class in the 2013-2014 to reduce class sizes which were expected to reach 28 to 30 students.

“We just can't have that many students in a kindergarten class,” Vargo Alekson. “It's not fair to the children or their parents. I'm also concerned about the class sizes in fourth and fifth grades.”

Because the school board did not approve the budget, board members tabled action on salary increases for the superintendent, business manager, administrators and support staff members.

Vargo Alekson, Lisa Strickler, Thomas E. Shetterly, Vicki Olexa, John Stickler and Davis G. Simmons voted against the budget. Brian S. Secrest supported the spending plan. School board members John E. Sterdis and Stacey L. Erderly were absent from the meeting.

Cindy Ekas is a freelance writer.

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