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Voters approve $446,000 for 7 new buses

Residents voted solidly Tuesday to allow the Orchard Park schools to spend $446,000 to buy seven new buses, the first step in getting the district on a regular replacement schedule.

After the tally showed that 71 percent of voters supported the plan, a teary-eyed Superintendent Joan D. Thomas said the results mean more than just new buses in September.

"Besides the bus [proposition] passing, I'm hoping it's showing the community is beginning to trust the new superintendent and the Board of Education," she said. "I'm hoping we're building up our credibility with the community."

Administrators and School Board members in the district, which covers parts of six towns, have been struggling to win the community's confidence after a plan for a new high school went down in flames four years ago and a superintendent resigned in disgrace last year.

Thomas and Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Petrus visited more than a dozen community groups in the past several weeks, pitching the bus proposition and introducing themselves to residents. Their goodwill tour took them to civic groups, senior citizen centers, parent meetings and schools, relying on Thomas' exuberance and Petrus' reserved grounding in the details of the plan.

The district sought to spend $250,000 from building reserve funds, $46,000 from a transportation fund and $150,000 from the general budget to replace buses with more than 100,000 miles. The final numbers showed 1,078 yes votes and 447 no votes.

This is the first step to put the district on a routine replacement schedule, officials said. Another bus proposition will appear on the May ballot this year and nearly every year. State aid, which covers about 60 percent of the cost, will help replenish the pot each year.

"People felt it made sense, much like replacing their car," Thomas said.

Although the vote seemed to indicate a show of community support, officials said they still planned to tread carefully with budget preparations. They say they hope to craft a plan with spending increase comparable to that mandated in a contingency budget.


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