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PATAKI'S SHIFT ON BUILDING AID STIRS CONCERN

The Starpoint School Board may be forced to delay or significantly cut back on plans to build a new high school if new state aid regulations are approved.

School officials say that Gov. George E. Pataki's proposal to change the way the state administers building aid has them worried.

"We're very upset," said board President Diane J. Braun. "This kind of mucks up our building project."

Pataki's proposed changes, which would need approval in the State Legislature, are designed to place limits on state building aid. The state has, until now, automatically provided aid for school building plans that gained technical approval by the state Education Department.

Under Pataki's plan, priority would be given to projects that address health and safety issues, overcrowding, plans to renovate schools at least 40 years old and physical changes made for instructional purposes.

The School Board will discuss the implications of Pataki's proposal at its meeting at 7:30 tonight in the district office, 4363 Mapleton Road.

Starpoint voters in April approved a project that included the state's assisting with 89 percent of the $57 million price tag, or about $50.5 million.

"Now (the governor) is trying to renege that or, let's say, slow it up," said William D. Patterson, vice president of the Starpoint School Board. "It puts us in a terrible position because we're talking a $57 million school."

A Starpoint community committee commissioned to study the construction plan found that the district needed more space for its 2,671 students.

Braun said the district was hoping to begin work on the new school in April but that would have to be put on hold.

"We need to start the program in April and we're not going to be able to do anything," said Braun. "It does not make any of us happy, that's for sure."

"They changed the rules in the middle of the game," said School Superintendent C. Douglas Whelan. "I don't think it's fair at all."

Braun said she hoped people in the community as well as local lawmakers would help to put some pressure on Pataki and the State Legislature to keep the funding at the same level.

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