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Just a week before the Williamsville School Board is expected to adopt its 1998-99 budget, board member Ken Smith Wednesday night suggested the district could save as much as $5 million by extending the school day for teachers by an hour in the morning.

Teachers could use the extra hour as a planning period, and use the planning period they now have later in the day for classroom instruction, Smith said. A surplus of teachers would be created, he said, allowing the district to reduce class size, expand remedial programs, and cut taxes.

Smith's plan got little reaction from other School Board members Wednesday night, but Donald Holtz, president of the Williamsville Teachers Association, said the district would have to negotiate the change with the union.

Smith unveiled his plan during a forum in Williamsville North High School on a proposed 1998-99 budget of $103 million that would increase total spending by 1.57 percent.

The district initially estimated the budget could increase the property-tax rate by 2.15 percent, but Superintendent Ann B. Fuqua Wednesday said the administration hopes to get the increase below 2 percent, with additional state aid.

With about 75 people attending the forum, roughly half the speakers praised the School Board for developing a budget that cuts spending without jeopardizing programs.

"Our schools are true examples of quality," said JoAnn Smith of the newly formed Alliance for Quality Education, ticking off a list of academic honors received by the district.

Others in Mrs. Smith's group listed ways the district has cut costs, including self-insurance and entering into cooperative purchasing agreements with other governments.

But while many praised the School Board, others argued the board has not gone far enough.

"Mandate upon yourselves a budget reduction," resident Barry Eckert said.

"Think outside the box," resident Steven Turco said. "We can't afford every year to have taxes go up."

Smith estimated one teacher in five or six would become available for another assignment, or to be let go, under his proposal to extend the school day. Williamsville has about 840 teachers.

But Smith said he needs more information to determine the actual impact -- in terms of funding and teachers -- of the extended school day.

He asked the School Board Wednesday to authorize the superintendent to do the analysis, but Board President Anne Rohrer said the request should be discussed at the board's next regular meeting next Wednesday.

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