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The Amherst Central School District is in good financial shape, largely because of a healthy surplus, according to an audit report accepted at Tuesday night's School Board meeting.

Board President Paul V. Batt Jr. said the independent audit, prepared by Fox and Co., found no flaws or inadequacies with the district's accounting procedures and he congratulated administrators for their "straight A's."

The report, for the fiscal year ending June 30, showed a total surplus of $2.4 million, of which $538,180 is undesignated and the remainder about evenly divided between funds allocated to support this year's $31.4 million budget or reserved for pensions and encumbered purchase orders.

Mark A. Whyle, director of administrative services, noted that, in accordance with state law, the undesignated surplus does not exceed 2 percent of the district's total budget. The total surplus, as of June 30, 1996, was slightly more than $2 million. Whyle said the $400,000-plus increase in one year is due to a reduction in the state teachers retirement system contribution rate that saved the district approximately $500,000.

Whyle said he believes the financial condition of the district "affirms the ability to bring to our residents a zero percent increase in the budget next year."

In another matter, board members said they would like some reaction from parents before they consider a faculty member's proposal to change an administrative regulation stipulating that the high school and middle school will alternate years for overnight music field trips.

Steve Thomas, district music coordinator and high school orchestra director, said he would like to encourage students to perform as often as possible and noted that he is particularly concerned about groups getting invited to perform at out-of-town events and "it not being their turn to go."

Several board members raised concern over the costs to families of annual overnight trips.

"If you do this on an alternating year basis, there's an opportunity to let students go out and fund raise," said Trustee David A. Stocking.

Although Thomas said there is an existing fund to help such families, Stocking said many people wouldn't come forward to ask for the assistance.

The board also:

Received an update from teacher Nora J. Trincanati on some instructional concepts for the gifted and talented program that will get under way in February. Also, Superintendent Dennis D. Ford said recruitment will begin in November for a second enrichment teacher. Both positions were included in this year's budget.

Heard a report from Steve Appler, the district's art coordinator, and other members of the art staff on efforts to align the Amherst curriculum with the new state learning standards for the arts. Paul T. Wietig, director of curriculum and staff development, said the teachers "know where they're going, but still have some work to do."

Received a certificate proclaiming Oct. 27-31 School Board Recognition Week in the Town of Amherst. Amherst Council Member and Deputy Supervisor Peggy Santillo presented the proclamation to Batt, noting that being a school trustee is "one of the most intensive volunteer positions in the community."

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