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Budget with spending hike adopted

The East Aurora School Board has adopted a 2012-13 budget of $29.11 million, calling for a 4.4 percent increase in spending but holding the tax levy increase at the maximum 3.45 percent permitted under the state's cap for the district.

The budget proposal, which goes before voters May 15, results in fewer staff layoffs than the 13.2 that were originally projected in earlier drafts. In all, 11.1 full-time equivalent jobs will be cut districtwide, with 8.1 of them slated for the high school.

The budget restores most of the music curriculum at Parkdale Elementary School and allows for the restoration of fourth-grade band and orchestra.

But the pain will be felt at the high school, where administrators still are working through how to handle a crunch with elective courses, some of which would be pared or offered on a more limited basis. To restore some of the electives to work in an eight-period school day would have cost nearly $200,000, school officials have said.

The high school may have to alternate its Advanced Placement course offerings and perhaps run some elective courses for half of a year, instead of an entire academic year.

At the outset of board discussion leading up to the budget adoption, board member Stephen Zagrobelny once again hammered the issue of full-day kindergarten, which has been approved to begin this fall. He has long had concerns about future state aid for it that could lead to unknown funding problems in years.

"When you add a program, you're not just adding it for the year you can afford it -- knowing full well that the addition of full-day kindergarten is fully funded in its first year," Zagrobelny said. "We don't know the impact in the out years of adding these additional bodies."

Board members Jessica Armbrust and Mary Beth Covert both said they were disappointed that a fellow board member chose not to support the budget over the full-day kindergarten issue. "By not supporting it, you're encouraging a certain faction of people to vote the budget down, which could result in further cuts," Armbrust said.

The tentative tax rates, which could face adjustments before fall, call for $35.98 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for Aurora, up by $1.20 on the rate; and $32.85 for Colden, an increase of $1.09; and $311.61 for Elma, up by $10.40. (Elma is not at full valuation, accounting for the drastic difference in the rate).

A public hearing on the budget will be held during the board's next meeting at 7 p.m. May 2 in Main Street School.