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BOARD QUIZZED ON BUDGET, PLAN FOR FIELD HOUSE

The Lancaster School Board was peppered with questions and comments from the public Monday night about the recently released budget proposal and the option of building a new field house rather than a gymnasium near the high school.

"People are making their voice clear that they want their children to be educated. Maybe it's time to look at some of the amenities," Helen Shaw said.

Mrs. Shaw said she was not against athletic programs in the district but added that most parents want the district to provide their children with a good education. She implied that music programs positively affect more students than sports programs.

Lancaster residents have rejected sports propositions in previous school budget votes.

Board member Edward Carlsen challenged Mrs. Shaw when she implied that the district had left people with the impression that the new school being built on William Street for fifth and sixth grades would solve redistricting problems in the burgeoning school district.

"No one, no one, said redistricting was going to be solved by building the new school," Carlsen said, referring to public hearings on the redistricting proposal.

The district is growing as people move into Lancaster. A redistricting proposal to move 168 children from south and east Lancaster to Sciole Elementary in Depew has raised controversy, and the district is now working with a committee of parents, teachers and others to come up with alternative proposals.

Board President Richard D'Arcy stressed that the budget figures released last month were tentative, adding that while some areas have been examined for savings, others have not. The tentative $52.4 million budget would raise the tax rate by 20 percent from the current $17.58 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $21.22.

D'Arcy and Assistant Superintendent Edward J. Myszka told about a dozen residents at the meeting in Hillview Elementary School that the figures do not reflect state aid, personnel for the new school and other factors.

A proposal to build a new gymnasium near the high school was approved by voters in 1996 in a $33.2 million bond issue that included renovations to all district buildings, building the new school for fifth and sixth grades and installation of technology, among other projects.

While the other projects are proceeding, the board is taking a tentative look at whether it would be a better idea to build a field house instead of a gymnasium.

The major difference D'Arcy said is the $120-per-square-foot cost for a gymnasium compared with $70 per square foot for the field house.

Also, the field house could be used for a number of academic programs as well as athletics that would charge admission and bring in some dollars to the district.

However, residents Monday night raised questions about the cost of the field house. Some calculated that it house would cost hundreds of thousands dollars more than what voters have already approved.

"I completely oppose this new field house," said Debbie Simme. "We don't need a gymnasium or a field house, when students couldn't hold a spaghetti dinner because the district couldn't afford a custodian."

"No decision has been made yet," D'Arcy stressed, explaining that the field house idea was only being scrutinized at this point.