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DISTRICT BUDGET CUTS BACK ON LAYOFFS

Frontier Central School District residents still face a hefty tax increase, but the number of teacher layoffs won't be as bad as first feared.

The Board of Education Tuesday night voted 7-2 to adopt a $60,539,061 budget for 2005-06 that would hike taxes 6.95 percent.

The good news is that instead of laying off the equivalent of 27.5 teachers, the district now believes that only a "handful" will have to be let go after 10 teachers decided to retire, eight accepted resignation incentives, and other changes were made.

Superintendent Robert S. Guiffreda said the exact number of layoffs remains to be seen, depending upon enrollment and other factors.

But Mark Chavel, president of the teachers union, said the budget still calls for the elimination of 16 positions, "and the children will still suffer."

Board members Michael N. Comerford and Janet MacGregor Plarr voted against the budget, saying it does not cut administrative costs enough.

To cut the teaching staff without cutting the administration "is simply wrong and can't be defended," Comerford said.

Plarr said she supports Guiffreda, who was thrust into a difficult position when he took the job in December, "but I can't see touching some and not others."

The superintendent and four assistant superintendents saved the district nearly $35,000 in voluntary givebacks concerning health insurance and other benefits. Still, the four assistants will receive 3.5 percent pay increases and Guiffreda will get a $2,500 raise.

Guiffreda said he will undertake a study of how to reduce administrative costs -- which he said amount to 9 percent at Frontier compared to an area average of 11 percent.

The budget, which residents will vote on May 17, contains funds for four contingent teaching positions, which will only be filled if needed.

It restores two music teachers and two elementary reading specialists and a nurse along with six support staff positions.

It would increase the tax rate by $1.38 per $1,000 of assessed valuation from $19.90 to $21.28.

More than 200 turned out a week ago to denounce the proposed teacher reductions.

The reaction was considerably milder Tuesday before about 100 people in the Middle School.

e-mail: ternst@buffnews.com

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