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RALLY URGES VOTERS TO SAVE SPORTS PROGRAMS TODAY

More than 100 students, parents, teachers and coaches turned out for a rally at John F. Kennedy Senior High School Tuesday night in support of saving the sports programs at Cheektowaga-Sloan schools.

For a second time, district residents today decide the fate of school sports, field trips and extracurricular programs in a special budget vote.

"We had such a great turnout, I think everyone should know," said Claire M. Ferrucci, School Board vice president. "These kids really want this to happen."

After the rally, parents drove a 20-car caravan throughout Sloan neighborhoods, taking about 80 school athletes on the 11th-hour campaign, going door to door, handing out fliers and asking for support.

After voters defeated a 1997-98 budget of $15,849,519 June 11, officials adopted an austerity plan, leaving out money for athletics, field trips, equipment and extracurricular activities as required by the state.

Now, residents will consider a $260,555 proposition to fund the programs. The dollar amounts, accompanying estimated tax rate hike of 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, are unchanged from the original budget.

"You see home after home for sale here," says longtime Sloan resident Dorothy Jankowiak, a recently widowed senior citizen on a fixed income. "The seniors can't keep up with the taxes -- we don't get any breaks."

The austerity plan, unaffected by today's vote results, keeps all essential programs intact. It alone carries an estimated tax-rate increase of $1.45 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for Cheektowaga residents, and $1.10 for West Seneca residents.

Cheektowaga-Sloan was one of 10 school districts in Erie County whose budgets were defeated by voters the first time around.

According to School Board member Paul Kubiak, this was the first budget defeat in approximately six years.

Although, there have been moderate increases over the years, previously none were drastic, said Kubiak, who added that, because of additional staffing and other bond-related expenses, this year was a bad one.

The original proposed budget carried a total estimated tax-rate hike averaging 5.5 percent. Today's budget proposition reflects approximately roughly $7.50 per year for the average $49,000 homeowner.

Voting was scheduled from noon to 8 p.m. today in Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt schools, and at the new location, Doyle Fire Hall on Williams Street.

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