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A "worst case" scenario for the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District shows school taxes jumping 44 percent over the next six years if the troubled district does not find a way to clear a series of fiscal hurdles.

The budget projection shows Ken-Ton school taxes rising 8.12 percent in the coming school year, followed by increases of 8.29 percent, 7.95 percent, 6.71 percent, 6.37 percent and 6.72 percent in subsequent years.

Superintendent David A. Paciencia said the projections were developed as a starting point for work on the 2001-02 budget, and that the series of large tax increases included is "not going to happen."

"It's not going to hit that number," Paciencia said, adding that the district is lobbying the state for more aid. "We developed a worst-case scenario, and now we will pare it down."

He said it is too early to determine what the increase, if any, will be.

But Ken-Ton Trustee Joseph Salamone said the district shouldn't pin all its hopes on Albany, because there is no guarantee it will come to Ken-Ton's rescue.

Even if the state helps out, he said Ken-Ton will be hard-pressed to come up with all the money it needs to solve its fiscal problems.

"(The board members) don't want to look at reality," Salamone said. "They'd better wake up. These numbers are scary."

The board will discuss the projections as well as the coming year's budget at a meeting from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday in district headquarters, 1500 Colvin Blvd., Town of Tonawanda.

Ken-Ton, Erie County's second-largest suburban district, has been hit by several financial problems in recent months, including the loss of $2 million over the next few years because of a tax break for the Huntley Steam Station and another $630,000 annual reduction in taxes for Indeck-Yerke, a local co-generating plant.

A charter school set to open in Kenmore in September is also expected to drain funds, because per-pupil district money follows any Ken-Ton students who enroll.

The district's projections are based on 200 students enrolling at the Charter School for Applied Technology in the first year, with the number rising to 600 by the sixth year.

At worst, the defection of Ken-Ton students to the charter school would cost the district $4.5 million. However, Paciencia and others do not believe that many students will leave.

In addition, Ken-Ton also is trying to determine how to pay for a long list of repairs and renovations it had hoped to finance through a giant renovation bond that was rejected twice by voters.

Paciencia said the district is banking on special aid from Albany to offset its losses from the Huntley tax break. Ken-Ton also hopes the State Legislature will agree to compensate districts that lose revenue because of students' switching to charter schools.

Ken-Ton also is counting on retirements to lower costs. Paciencia said that the board is studying district programs as well, and that he is meeting with principals to see if changes can be made.

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