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ORDER TO LIMIT SPENDING INCREASE SPARKS CONFUSION

Superintendent Walter S. Polka has said he would have to trim expenditures by about $1 million next year to keep the total spending increase at less than 2 percent from the current budget of $30.6 million, once financing for $14.7 million in renovations is included.

Last month, the School Board told Polka it would like to see a proposed budget of no more than $31.3 million, or 2 percent more than the current plan.

But at last week's meeting, R. Nils Olsen Jr., the board's vice president, asked whether that included the yearly payment for the capital project, and Edward M. Lilly, board president, said it did.

Olsen noted that such costs such as fuel and insurance surely will rise, saying, "How we deal with that, I think, will be an interesting process."

"What you should have done about a month ago is ask for 2 percent over the operating budget," Franklyn M. Collins, a board member, protested to Lilly. He, too, had assumed that the 2 percent increase would exclude the $1 million payment for the capital project.

"The voters understood this very clearly when they voted," Collins said.

The $14.7 million project, approved in May 2000, includes work on plumbing, heating, ventilation, technology and security systems and renovating some spaces. In addition, the district has received approval to install new doors, windows, lockers, carpeting and ceilings, and to update the buildings to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Assistant Superintendent Don W. Rappold told the trustees that the tax rate for next year won't be too bad because state aid should "neutralize the budget impact."

He also noted that, by Feb. 1, the board would have information on which employees planned to retire.

"That has the effect of reducing the budget," Rappold said.

The School Board also voted, 4-3, to direct Polka to advertise for replacements for three administrators who will retire at the end of the school year.

The measure specifically ordered Polka to advertise in The Buffalo News and the Niagara Gazette every two weeks until Feb. 24. They also want him to advertise in the New York Times and Education Week as he sees fit.

Olsen, Collins and James W. Leighton, a board member, voted against the directive.

Lilly said the directive was needed because Polka had not taken action, even though the board has accepted the retirements of Roberta J. Love, director of secondary education and high school principal; Gerald W. Tucker, director of elementary education; and Dennis M. Tosetto, middle school principal.

But which positions Lilly wanted to advertise remained unclear, because he also said he would seek to establish new positions and restore the former titles of elementary principal and high school principal.

"We're making it simple," Lilly said, contending that the jobs now overlap.

At Polka's suggestion, the trustees informally asked F. Warren Kahn, their attorney, to research the legality of changing the titles.

After receiving permission from the state Education Department, the former School Board had voted in 1996 to reduce administrative positions.

After eliminating the jobs of some assistant principals, the board promoted Love from high school principal to her expanded job.

The board also had to reconfigure the job description for Tucker, who had been elementary school principal.

e-mail: pkowalik@buffnews.com

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