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SCHOOL TAXES EXPECTED TO INCREASE 4 PERCENT TO FUND BUDGET

The vice president of the Starpoint School Board said Monday night that taxes will be going up for the 2001-2002 school year.

William D. Patterson, who is also a member of the board's Financial Committee, said that even if the board adopted an austerity budget for next year, the increase would be 4 percent.

That is because last year's board depleted the surplus to keep the part of the budget funded by property taxes down. The tax rate decreased 4.68 percent because the district went through a revaluation, but spending increased by 3.49 percent to $23,435,300.

And, added Patterson, costs such as utilities, health insurance and other benefits will increase.

Stephen Lunden, the district's director of administrative services, said that he and everyone around him saw the increases coming.

The board and Superintendent C. Douglas Whelan also lamented that the status of the $57 million building project approved in April was in question. The state was to have picked up 89 percent of the price tag, or about $50.5 million.

Gov. George E. Pataki has proposed changes in state building aid that could affect Starpoint's reimbursement for the project.

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.

Commenting by telephone earlier in the day Monday, State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda, said that because the state did not anticipate that so many school districts would be taking advantage of an extra 10 percent in aid to improve their buildings, Pataki has proposed allowing only $130 million worth of projects.

The state received requests to fund $486 million worth of projects, said Maziarz. "The state doesn't have that kind of money to spend all at once."

The governor wants to create a pot of $130 million and then prioritize the projects, he said. "I am not in favor of the governor's proposal," he added.

He said that he feels a district such as Starpoint, which has already received voter approval, should get some funding.

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