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Erie Community College trustees signed off Wednesday on a $61.9 million operating budget for the coming academic year.

They also approved the retirement of 32 senior faculty members through a one-time incentive offering and extended the contract of ECC President William J. Mariani to June 30, 2006.

The 2001-02 budget total is $4.4 million below the number initially proposed by ECC trustees.

But William D. Reuter, ECC's chief administrative and financial officer, said, "Through some creative solutions to the budget on the part of the county executive, we are getting a substantial amount of what the board of trustees requested."

The upcoming budget includes an increase in the county's contribution of $800,000, bringing the county share to more than $12.7 million.

In addition, the county is giving ECC significant funds outside of the budget for the current and upcoming academic years.

A total of $500,000 in tobacco settlement dollars from the county will fund equipment expenses in the current fiscal year. Another $2 million from the county will fund the retirement incentive.

A total of $780,000, also in tobacco money from the county, will fund equipment expenses in the coming year. The county is also giving ECC $1.3 million to fund four capital projects in 2001-02.

The upcoming budget keeps full-time tuition at $2,475 a year and decreases part-time tuition from $104 to $99 per credit hour.

It is a budget based on an anticipated increase in state operating aid of $125 per full-time student and gives members of the ECC Faculty Federation a 3 percent pay raise. It also projects an increase of 100 full-time-equivalent students.

The new budget, $200,000 higher than the current operating budget, was approved 17-0 by the County Legislature last Thursday and will now go to the State University of New York board of trustees for final approval.

The bulk of the ECC employees taking retirement through the one-time incentive are full professors with an average salary of $61,721, Reuter noted. Their retirements were effective with the trustees' approval Wednesday.

Patricia Krzesinski, chairwoman of the ECC board, said Mariani's contract extension followed a thorough evaluation by the college's trustees. She said the evaluation found Mariani to be "exceptional" on the job, holding to the highest standards and showing himself to be "an organized planner and sound decision-maker."

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