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The Olean City School Board voted 7-2 to use $150,000 in restored state aid to pay for teacher salaries in grades seven through 12 and devote $82,000 to lowering the tax levy.

Some board members initially suggested using the entire $232,785 in restored aid to keep the tax increase at 7.71 percent, a rate that would have increased the average city property owner's tax bill by almost $75.

But a compromise was reached after board members heard appeals from middle school teachers who fear larger class sizes because of the loss of as many as six positions.

Karen Hessney, co-president of the Olean Teachers Association, told board members that a tax-rate reduction would represent only $35 for each property owner, an amount that would barely fill her gas tank and would be better spent helping students meet the program objectives.

The audience consisted of about 60 teachers, some administrators and three parents. Gordon Cross, a grandparent, told board members that using the funding to lower taxes would be a "slap in the face" to State Sen. Patricia K. McGee, R-Franklinville.

Darlene Connelly, a high school teacher, pointed out that laying off six teachers would reduce the middle school staff by more than 10 percent.

Several pleaded with the board and administrators to name the teachers facing layoff, and one suggested that administrators should be cut instead.

But Diane Balaban, a board member, pointed out that two administrators who had left the district in the past two years had not been replaced.

During the lengthy discussion, some board members noted that defeat of the spending plan would force a contingency budget, meaning a higher tax rate to foot the bill for as much as $1 million more in spending.

"It has broken our hearts to cut teachers and support staff and everything else, and it will be even worse for a contingency budget. But the legislative budget is based on money that isn't even there yet," said Mary Faye another board member.

Faye and Lou Nicol cast the lone votes against the plan.

The board voted unanimously to revise the proposed budget to incorporate the extra aid for a total spending package of $27.452 million. The proposal will be presented to voters at a hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday n the middle school's larger group instruction room.

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