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Special-education needs, larger class sizes and skyrocketing utility costs dominated discussion at Monday night's public input session on the 2001-02 Clarence school budget.

Michael Ranney, a parent member of the Special Education Parent Teacher Student Association, said the group is seeking a summer school program for special-education children, particularly those in grades three through eight. The group, which has about 80 members, wants to develop a program that promotes growth and prevents regression, Ranney said.

In response to a question from Trustee Michael T. Huttner, Ranney said the group would target all special-ed students in those grades based on need.

"We agree that children gain from a briefer absence to the classroom, and we'll be looking at that," said board President James A. Powers.

In another matter, Karin Krasevac-Lenz, co-president of the Sheridan Hill Parent-Teacher Organization, asked board members to give some thought to additional staffing positions at the school before construction of the addition, which is scheduled for completion in fall 2002.

Krasevac-Lenz, who remarked that the PTO had asked her to speak to the board, said that the school's first and third grades are nearing the maximum of 25 pupils per classroom due to unusual growth this year.

"We certainly try to stay in the guidelines as much as we can," said Trustee John R. Semler, but administrators, who are still developing the budget, did not offer any specifics on additional staffing.

The board also heard from resident James Hirt, who asked if increased gas prices will affect next year's budget.

"Absolutely!" said Superintendent Thomas G. Coseo, although he did not supply any figures.

"Whatever you experience in your home, we experience on a grander scale," said Coseo. Commenting that the district has taken measures to conserve energy, he told the audience, "Our consumption is down, but our costs are skyrocketing."

The budget input session preceded a regular School Board meeting at which Coseo announced that trustees would receive a draft budget at the Feb. 26 regular meeting. He also asked the board to approve several tentative dates for budget work sessions.

In other business, Coseo announced the receipt of $25,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the district for expenses incurred during the Nov. 20 snowstorm.

He said the payment fell slightly short of the $27,000 request submitted by the district. The expense was largely for overtime and contractual costs.

The superintendent also responded to a question from Beth Maher, member of a citizens advisory committee on elementary school building needs, concerning the status of an independent enrollment study. He said the study, which includes enrollment projections, as well as the redrafting of attendance areas, is being conducted by Peter Rogerson, a professor at the University at Buffalo. The change in attendance areas is due to planned additions at two schools

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