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BOARD GIVEN BUDGET PLAN THAT CUTS 24 TEACHING POSTS

Administrators on Thursday presented the School Board with a final 2005-06 budget proposal that would maintain programs but eliminate 24 teaching positions and a noninstructional post.

"This does not raise the property tax levy at all, but we need to reduce expenses by $2.1 million to do that," School Superintendent Carmen A. Granto said, adding that this was the 13th consecutive year his administration has been able to avoid raising property taxes.

The proposed budget calls for spending $107,164,400 next year, well below the original $109,164,400 budget the district would have needed to maintain all district operations the same way they were this year.

The board is scheduled to adopt the budget Thursday when it meets in the Annex Building, 606 Sixth St. Voters will decide on the budget May 17.

To keep spending down, Business Administrator James J. Ingrasci said administrators had to eliminate 10 teaching positions from special-aid programs, six special-education teachers and eight other general fund instructors. Most of the cuts could be justified because of declining student enrollment, according to Granto.

Ingrasci said that a clerk's job is being eliminated but that it will not have an impact on anyone because the person holding that post is leaving the job.

Granto said, "In a best-case scenario, most of those teachers (scheduled to be cut) will fill positions being left open by 15 or 16 teachers who are retiring. Hopefully, they will match up (English teachers replacing English teachers, elementary teachers replacing elementary teachers)."

Granto said that full-time teachers whose jobs are lost will be able to bump teachers with less seniority. Because of that, he said, "we'll probably have a reduction of about 10 regular substitute teachers. They work on one-year contracts."

He said the substitutes would probably be laid off next year.

The proposed budget exceeds this year's $104,464,400 budget by $2.7 million.

Ingrasci said the district was able to increase the budget because state aid went up by $2.7 million this year.

To balance the spending plan, he said, the district was able to use some one-time fund payments, including $1 million from the New York Power Authority settlement with the Niagara Coalition, which helps compensate the district for loss of property taxes over the years and a $500,000 payment from Seneca Niagara Casino.

Those one-time payments will fill in for other one-time funds the district received last year from other sources, money that was used to keep programs in place this year while keeping property taxes down.

Also, the district is expecting to gain anywhere from $2 million to $3 million in a one-time, upfront payment for refinancing the $63 million it owes on the principal for the construction of Niagara Falls High School. The deal would lower the interest rate to 4.5 percent from about 6 percent.

Granto said he will recommed that the board put this money in a reserve fund so it will be on hand in the case state aid is down next year or to deal with a future emergency.

"It would be nice to spend everything, but we can't mortgage our future," Granto said.

He said that the board has to plan ahead and make sure that children have the programs they need in future years.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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