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$54.8 MILLION BUDGET WITH TAX INCREASE IS APPROVED

The Sweet Home School Board on Tuesday approved a budget of $54.8 million for the 2005-06 school year.

The impact on the tax rate will not be official until the Town of Amherst completes its revaluation program and receives state approval in August.

However, school district officials think that the tax rate will increase by between 1.88 and 3.84 percent, meaning an additional $18 to $37 in taxes on a home assessed at $100,000, for a total tax bill ranging from $986 to $1,005.

Thomas D. Miller, the district's director of finance, said that the district was basing its figures on conservative estimates and that the tax rate could end up lower by the time the assessment are finalized.

"We are expecting a significant amount of additional assessment values from the town and are projecting between $30 million and $60 million in new assessments, and maybe more," Miller said.

If district assessments did not increase, the tax rate would increase by 5.93 percent, costing the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 an additional $57, for a total tax bill of $1,025. However, all the information the district has received from the town assessor's office indicates that this is extremely unlikely, Miller said.

Miller said the on-time state budget, with the availability of specific figures for state aid, was a big help to the board in setting the budget figure. The final budget amount was unanimously approved by the board with no additional discussion.

The public vote on the budget will be from noon to 9 p.m. May 17 in Sweet Home Middle School on Maple Road.

District voters also will vote on a proposition that would authorize the district to buy up to four 65-passenger school buses and two 18-passenger buses at a cost of $377,200.

Board members Karen Barton and Carol Nowak are running for re-election.

Tuesday's meeting was the first regular session of the School Board since a Sweet Home High School sophomore was arrested in an alleged bomb plot at the high school two weeks ago.

Elizabeth Hong, a student who is an honorary member of the board, said that students were trying to get back to normal and that faculty members have been helping students through difficult emotional times.

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