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BOARD ADVISED TO DELAY SETTING BUDGET VOTE

The Tonawanda City School Board Thursday was advised to postpone setting a date for the district's first budget vote because the state may make the decision.

A recent amendment to state Education Law requires Tonawanda and other small city school districts to submit their 1997-98 budgets for voter approval, and School Attorney Bernard B. Freedman said the State Legislature may decide to require all small city districts to vote on the same date.

Freedman said he expects the matter to be decided around the first of the year, and predicted that legislators would choose May 6 or 7.

He said contradictions in state laws would necessitate further legal interpretation if the decision on a voting date is left to the individual districts.

In a related matter, Trustee Dennis R. Atkinson asked if sports expenditures could be a separate proposition if the budget is defeated on its first vote.

The budget can be submitted to voters twice. After two defeats, the district would have to operate on a contingency budget.

Freedman said a separate proposition could be placed before the voters at either election, but C. Douglas Whelan, assistant superintendent for business and finance, asked, "Are we a total program, or are we parts?" And Superintendent James C. Holler said, "If we break (the budget) up beforehand, it can be divisive."

During the period reserved for public comment, three residents questioned the board about rumors of a convicted child molester who lives in the area and has been reportedly seen in the vicinity of district schools.

"Is our security aware of this?" asked Cheryl Lepsch, who said she heard the individual is in Tonawanda and has been in the junior high school. Mrs. Lepsch said she spoke to city police and was told the report the man had been in the school was spurious.

Holler said teachers, administrators and other persons who work with students in a supervisory capacity have been informed of the situation, but board President Michele Benns called it a "touchy issue."

One man said he had spotted the individual outside Central School, a building that has been leased by the district for preschool use.

"If you see anyone suspicious near the school, please call 911," said board Vice President Pamela Stiegman.

Capt. Mark Winters of the Tonawanda Police Department confirmed Friday that a registered sex offender is living in the City of Tonawanda.

He said police have notified the individual's neighbors and area schools about the situation.

The board Thursday also heard a progress report from Whelan on the district's $3.7 million capital reconstruction project.

He said the junior high's new technology wing should be completed within two to three weeks.

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