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The North Tonawanda School Board Wednesday night began going through its preliminary 1998-99 budget, trying to reduce spending to a state-mandated cap of $46.1 million.

Assistant Superintendent Susan L. Villiers explained that under state law, districts such as North Tonawanda, which are operating under contingency budgets, are limited to increasing their 1998-99 budget to either 120 percent of the Consumer Price Index, or 2.76 percent above the 1997-98 budget outlay, whichever is less.

The district's 1997-98 budget cap was $44.89 million.

Originally proposed for the 1998-99 school year was $51.5 million, a 5.28 percent increase.

Under the new law, a number of expenditures can be excluded from the cap.

North Tonawanda qualified for $3.95 million in voter-approved capital expenditures-debt service; $66,255 in judgments and court orders, and $60,00 in refunded property taxes.

With those exclusions, the district's budget limit is $46.1 million, a 2.76 percent increase.

School Superintendent John H. George asked that the School Board to stay as far away as possible from cutting educational programs, concentrating instead on non-mandated, non-classroom programs.

Board member Robin McMullen asked for a breakdown of how much money is spent on individual interscholastic sports before the board makes a decision on the sports budget.

In another matter, Mrs. Villiers attempted to allay voter concerns over the reduction of school polling places to one location at the district complex on Meadow Drive. She said there will be six voting machines and two spares in operation there.

George announced that letters have gone out to parents of children in one classroom at the Gilmore Elementary School, advising that 34 cases of head lice have been reported this week.

He said the outbreak seems to be under control, with 13 of the infected children having already returned to school.

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