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DEPEW ADOPTS AUSTERITY PLAN FOR SCHOOLS BOARD SETS AUG. 21 FOR REVOTE ON BUDGET

The Depew School Board Thursday adopted a $20.9 million austerity budget and immediately scheduled another budget vote for Aug. 21 in a final attempt to reinstate activities and services prohibited under the austerity plan.

The contingency plan, which is only $71,000 less than the budget that was rejected by voters June 12, limits spending to state-mandated items.

Under the plan, the district will eliminate all athletics and co-curricular activities and bus transportation for pupils in kindergarten through the eighth-grade who live within a 2-mile radius of their schools and for high school students living within a 3-mile radius.

Some of the cuts were offset by a prolonged shutdown of the district's co-generation engine that resulted in higher utility costs, Business Manager John Bindhammer said. When operating, the co-generation plant provides an inexpensive source of heat and electricity.

Under the austerity plan, Bindhammer estimated, district residents in Cheektowaga face a tax rate increase of $1.52 to $15.99 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or about 10 percent. Bindhammer stressed the figures were only estimates based on assessment projections and estimated state equalization rates.

He said Town of Lancaster residents could expect a similar percentage increase. The current rate in Lancaster is $14.42.

Interim Superintendent Judith Staples said the district hopes to have all reassessment figures and state equalization rates before the Aug. 21 budget vote.

Also on the ballot will be a separate $2.8 million bond issue to fund building repairs.

The project will include installing new air handlers and humidifiers to improve air quality at the middle school, $500,000, and at Cayuga Heights Elementary, $160,000; roof repairs at the bus garage, $100,000; removing water from crawl spaces under the middle school, $160,000; updating plumbing at the high school, $150,000, and removing a tank at the bus garage, $100,000.

Trustee Jane Wiercioch told residents the bond issue, if approved, would increase the tax rate by about 12 cents. The district expects to receive state aid for about 70 percent of the project.

Robert Klein of Babinsky Klein Engineers of Amherst told the board the project probably would not begin until sometime next year.

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