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LANCASTER-DEPEW MERGER STILL UNDER STUDY

Both the Lancaster Central School District and the Depew Union Free School District are financially sound right now.

So a bailout merger between the two is a nonissue, said Wayne W. Drescher of Deloitte & Touche, auditor for both.

Among the first in Erie County to take a serious look at a merger in recent years, Lancaster and Depew schools are ready to start a feasibility study to determine what would make sense -- anything from a consolidation of individual services, such as purchasing, to an all-out merger.

Drescher attended the Lancaster School Board meeting Monday night to present the annual audit report. It shows that Lancaster is not having any major money problems.

Lorraine Bona, vice president of the Lancaster School Board, squashed rumors she's heard that the reason Lancaster is considering a merger with Depew schools is because the 5,600-student Lancaster district is financially strapped.

"Is there any necessity to merge with Depew to keep us in the black?" Bona asked Drescher.

"Right now you both are financially solvent," he said. "There's not a financial need to merge."

Fred Hammer, a Ransom Road homeowner, brought up the issue of possible lost jobs under a merger.

"Three main groups are looking at this merger," Hammer said. "One wants to cut costs. Another is afraid they will lose something in their districts. And another group is afraid of losing jobs. And rightfully so. Jobs are scarce in Western New York."

State education officer Susan Spear and representatives from both districts will have a dinner meeting and information session at 6 p.m. Oct. 26.

"The purpose of this session is to have Mrs. Spear explain the process, legal implications and implications of a reorganization plan," said Joseph L. Girardi, superintendent of Lancaster schools. "I expect this will be a most informative evening."

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