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LACKAWANNA BUDGET HOLDS LINE ON HOMESTEAD TAX BUSINESS OWNERS FACE 4.6 PERCENT INCREASE IN PLAN APPROVED BY SCHOOL BOARD

Lackawanna homeowners will see a tiny decrease in their school taxes, while business owners will see a 4.6 percent increase under a budget unanimously approved Friday by the School Board.

The $22,295,000 budget increases spending by only $30,000. Board members said they kept in mind the tough financial times taxpayers are facing.

Though they have had their share of public and private squabbles over the budget, board members were united in the effort to pare spending.

"We worked together as a board -- there were no politics," said Stephen Bokan. "There were a lot of arguments."

The homestead tax rate remains virtually unchanged at $9.72 per $1,0000 of assessed valuation. Technically, there is a slight decrease, from $9.726347 to $9.721431.

The non-homestead rate will rise by 4.6 percent, or $1.06 per $1,000, from $22.74 to $23.80.

Last year saw the non-homestead tax rate jump by 78 percent and the homestead rate by 12 percent as a result of the Bethlehem Steel assessment reduction and tax refund.

The only substantial increases in the budget were for contractual pay and a $833,000 rise in spending on programs for handicapped children. Also, $36,200 was allocated for computers, primarily for a Write-to-Read program at Franklin Elementary School.

The new budget abolishes the jobs of one assistant principal and five teachers, all through attrition. Out-of-state travel is eliminated and in-state travel cut to a minimum.

The board cut almost $2.4 million from the tentative "wish list" budget presented a month ago by the administration. The cuts included more than $1 million from instructional spending.

The deadline for adoption of the budget was today.

The school district is in much better financial shape than the city, which has a poor credit rating and is at its constitutional tax limit. However, board members said they kept in mind that school and city taxes come out of the same pockets.

"I wouldn't say we felt under pressure (to keep taxes down), but we certainly felt a lot of concern for taxpayers and the business community," board President Dennis Chudzik said. "I wish we could have done more for the business community."

The board will meet again in special session at 5:15 p.m. Monday for its annual reorganizational meeting.

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