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INCREASE EXPECTED IN SPECIAL-EDUCATION EXPENSES

Depew school officials outlined plans Thursday that show modest increases in the district's budget for special education for the coming year.

The district's budget for special education, including tuition and school psychology, is expected to increase by more than $112,000, to $746,918 from $634,909, according to estimates by Susan Gillick, head of the pupil and personnel services department.

The main increase results from higher tuition the district pays for students with special needs who must be placed in private education settings, Gillick told members of the School Board.

"There are 17 children in private schools. Children are placed in private schools when there is no public placement for them," Gillick said. "We are still responsible for them.

"Over the last few years, costs have not gone down; costs have gone up. A lot of the kids need a lot of specialized help," she said, explaining why that part of the budget is set to increase by more than $102,000.

"This is our big increase right here. We have found over the years (the Board of Cooperative Educational Services) has more children of ours that they don't have appropriate placements for, and then we have to look to private placements."

Private schools on the list for students with special needs include the Falk School, Cantalician Center, Center for Handicapped Children and School 84.

School 84, which is located adjacent to the Erie County Medical Center, provides intensive occupational and physical therapy as well as access to medical personnel. While Depew schools expect to sent only one student there next fall, the tuition is estimated at $50,324, Gillick noted.

District officials said much of the costs are recouped through state aid. The state, however, often delays determining the amount of reimbursement and paying it.

"This is not just our district; every district is under the same commitments," Gillick said.

The special education budget for next year also include an increase for contractual occupational and physical therapy services to $109,350 from $103,360 this year. About 45 students requiring direct occupational therapy, and 25 who require physical therapy, Gillick said.

The district, meanwhile, estimates it will spend nearly $1.45 million next year on BOCES-related services for students with special needs, up from $1.24 million this year, Gillick said.

BOCES provides a number of services for a variety of special education students, including speech, vision, hearing, counseling and mental health services.

According to Gillick, the rates for all the services have increased by 3 to 3.5 percent.

"Every year, the state demands more services from the school districts," Gillick said.

According to preliminary figures released last month by the district, school taxes are likely to increase by a little more than 3 percent in the upcoming school year.

The district will continue with its budget presentations during a regular meeting of the School Board at 7 p.m. Thursday in the district's Terrace Boulevard office.

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