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The Board of Education Wednesday reviewed the first of about 70 across-the-board job cuts that are anticipated when the board adopts its 2001-02 spending plan in April.

Eleven specific jobs that will be trimmed were discussed in a closed-door meeting during a special board review session. They include seven positions that will be trimmed from the district's central office staff, three in maintenance and one in the superintendent's office. Superintendent Carmen A. Granto said those and other proposed job cuts will be revealed at a future board meeting.

The cuts were recommended by department heads and building principals seeking to whittle away a projected $5.3 million revenue shortfall in next year's budget.

"What they recommend is going to hurt," Granto told board members Wednesday. "Some programs aren't going to be around next year. Make no mistake about that."

The School Board has directed district administrators to trim $5.3 million in expenses in order to adopt a no-tax-increase budget of $115,176,309.

After more than two weeks of regular meetings, Granto said, administrators, preliminarily at least, have done that.

"This budget was (crafted) from the bottom up and gives the practitioners targets to reach and four strategic goals of the board, one of which is to reduce expenses by $5.3 million. It looks like we can do that, which means no tax increase," he said.

The board, which has not yet begun regular meetings on the budget, reviewed a summary of staffing and budget projections Wednesday. The school buildings portion of the budget, at $69 million, accounts for 60 percent of the projected budget and was proposed to be cut by $3.4 million. Administrators proposed trimming districtwide expenses by $1.3 million, the central office by $309,676, maintenance by $217,191 and the superintendent's office by $27,810.

The vast majority of those cuts will be in personnel, Granto said, though he anticipates projections of some 32 early retirements might soften the blow.

"That helps in terms of layoffs. We don't want to put people out into the street. Still, it looks like 60 to 70 positions will have to be cut," Granto said.

Eight to 10 of those cuts will likely be at the new high school, where job guarantees from the merger of LaSalle and the old Niagara Falls high schools are for only one year.

Granto commended school building administrators for proposing cuts that will have the least impact on programs, though they were limited in where they could decide to cut. Almost 90 percent of the budget includes state-mandated expenses.

"A lot of tough decisions were made, but they really kept the core of the programs together," he said. "They had to go where the nonmandates are."

Board Member Jeannette Stypa, concerned about how firm the proposed cuts were, asked Granto to consider if administrators later changed their minds about their initial recommendations.

"I'd look for 15 new principals," said Granto. "One hundred and fifteen million (dollars) is enough to run the school district. That's a lot of money. But will the cuts hurt? A little bit."

The board is scheduled to adopt a budget April 19, followed by a public hearing May 3 and a public vote May 15.

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