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SPORTS RESTORED IN BUDGET

They came from classrooms, homes and businesses Wednesday night -- some even wearing uniforms from baseball games.

They filled the high school library to capacity -- all urging the Holland School Board to erase deep cuts proposed in the district's 2005-06 budget.

When the board approved a $17 million spending plan that restored programs, applause filled the room.

Among the cuts sidestepped were the elimination of modified sports, public swimming at the middle school, the middle school librarian and two elementary teachers.

Nearly all cuts were eliminated, thanks to an extra $215,000 in state school aid.

The revised budget represents a spending increase of 3.85 percent and a tax levy of 12.94 percent. The budget as unveiled last month totaled $16.9 million, a 3.24 percent increase from 2004-05.

Officials did not say how the budget would impact the tax rate.

Librarian Judith Greer said the budget cuts were "shortchanging the students and devaluing their education."

Linda Herraez of the Holland Teachers Association spoke of "adverse effects" of eliminating teaching positions.

Kathy Prendergast, a small business owner, said her family relied on the public swims in the middle school pool to combat cabin fever and stay in shape. The mother of three boys said she would volunteer to teach a water aerobics class at the pool and donate the proceeds to keep it open for the public.

Several residents asked how children would be able to compete on a junior varsity or varsity team without the benefit of the modified sports program.

Superintendent Garry Stone said he stayed up late Tuesday to see whether Gov. George E. Pataki would veto the budget.

When the aid was assured, Stone and Business Manager Douglas Scofield allocated 60 percent of the additional aid to the fund balance and the rest to reinstate most of the slashed programs.

However, a duplicating machine operator was not reinstated and the public swimming program will receive $2,000 in "seed money" to keep it going for a while. Stone said the district is forming a committee in an attempt to make the program self-sustaining.

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