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BOARD APPROVES $107.16 MILLION BUDGET, KEEPS SAME TAX LEVY

The School Board voted unanimously Thursday to adopt a $107.16 million budget for the coming school year.

The budget, which will be put to voters for approval May 17, requires a tax levy of $25 million, the same amount the district has raised in taxes each year since Carmen A. Granto was hired as superintendent in 1992.

But 24 teaching positions and a clerk's post will have to be eliminated because keeping all programs at current levels would require $109 million, Granto said.

District officials said most teachers whose jobs would be eliminated will fill vacancies left by the retirement of at least 15 teachers at the end of the school year. The others will keep their jobs because they can bump regular substitute teachers, who have no seniority and work on one-year contracts.

The clerk's position will not affect other jobs because the person holding the post is leaving.

Board members set a public hearing on the budget for 7 p.m. May 5 in the amphitheater of Niagara Falls High School, 4455 Porter Road.

District Business Administrator James J. Ingrasci said the budget is only 0.88 percent higher than this year's $106.28 million spending plan. He added, however, the state gave the district $2 million less last year than the board had anticipated, so officials cut back and ended up spending $104 million this year.

For next year, Ingrasci said, the district's state aid will increase by $2.7 million.

While the tax levy will remain the same, Ingrasci said he would not know what the property tax rates will be until sometime in July when the city determines both the residential and commercial rates.

Homeowners now pay a school property tax of $16.87 per $1,000 of assessed valuation while businesses pay $24.40 per $1,000. He said the city is trying to gradually lower the commercial rate and raise the residential rate so that eventually they will be the same.

Russell Petrozzi, board president, congratulated the staff for doing a good job on keeping quality education programs for children while making sure residents' taxes did not rise.

He thanked State Sens. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, and Byron Brown, D-Buffalo, and Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Niagara Falls, for their efforts in bringing in a state budget on time for the first time in 20 years and in obtaining increased aid for city schools.

"When I came on this board in 1992, the school tax levy was $25 million. In the year 2005, it's still $25 million," said Mark Zito, a board member. "So I guess we haven't raised taxes in 13 years, and (student) grades are going up. I guess that's why nobody comes to our meetings. Thank you."

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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