Frontier hires full-time treasurer

  • DEBARGE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/23/2022 2:20:40 PM
Modified: 9/23/2022 2:20:02 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — As Frontier Regional School District’s financial responsibility grows each year — now up to $32 million between budgets and grants — it has hired a full-time treasurer and accounting specialist to help better manage the four member towns’ money.

“There really is a need for the central office to have higher-level financial personnel,” Director of Business Administration Shelley Poreda explained at the Frontier School Committee meeting on Sept. 13. “The volume of money we’re bringing in is not being reduced.”

The district has hired TMS Inc. Business Manager and Associate Director of Policy Studies Michael DeBarge as its full-time treasurer, having previously operated with part-time staff. DeBarge previously served as the lead business manager for the Belchertown and Lee school districts.

“Over the past few years I filled most functions within the average school business office,” DeBarge said. “I think the role sounds really exciting … and to me, this sounds like a wonderful next step.”

While the School Committee was not legally required to vote on the position because the district’s budget was not changing, Frontier and Union 38 Superintendent Darius Modestow and Poreda said they wanted to bring the matter to the committee for the sake of transparency.

School Committee member William Smith said hiring another person for the financial office makes sense as the Frontier and Union 38 budgets continue to increase.

“This is a $32 million operation and you can’t operate it on a wing and a prayer,” he said.

Poreda added the district had posted a job listing for a part-time treasurer position, but did not receive a single application until it was reposted as a full-time job.

With financial responsibilities increasing, Modestow said another person in the financial office could help the district be more efficient and save the four towns money.

“This district has always run lean,” Modestow said. “We are very inefficient because of the fact that we are five different districts. … If you’re talking about this amount of money and you run lean, you’re asking for problems in the long run.”

Asked why he wanted the job, DeBarge said he wanted to “dig deep into one district” and put his skills to use.

“I’m looking for somewhere I can be part of the community,” he said. “Be a little bit more grounded, have that consistency in people I’m dealing with and people I’m working with, and having a long-term type feel.”

Town assessments reduced

Due to an increase in per-pupil Chapter 70 funding, Poreda said each of the four member towns’ assessments for fiscal year 2023 is being reduced. The state increased funding by $60 per student, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website.

With smiles around the table, the School Committee reduced Conway’s assessment by $2,546; Deerfield’s by $7,566; Sunderland’s by $3,587; and Whately’s by $1,750.

“Every little bit helps,” Smith added.

At Sunderland’s Sept. 19 Selectboard meeting, Chair Tom Fydenkevez thanked the school district for being willing to send the money back to towns when it didn’t have to.

“$3,500 in a town is a lot of money. … We have an $8 million budget, but we squeeze that,” Fydenkevez commented. “It’s not the amount that’s important, but the fact that there is an open line of communication.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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