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Downsizing may include closing buildings

The Tonawanda City School Board appears ready to act on the recommendations of a study that includes the closing of one or more buildings.

Trustees on Tuesday night aired the study, which takes into consideration future population and demographic changes.

The study showed that while Tonawanda's school-age population is likely to stabilize in the future after years of decline, the district may make better use of its resources by consolidating the current four elementary schools into three. Other recommendations included selling the district's administration office and Central School buildings on Broad Street.

Superintendent George Batterson told the School Board he will seriously consider the study's results by forming a long-term planning committee within the next month. Batterson delayed action on the study report until after Tonawanda entered its 2005-06 fiscal year, but invited the public to attend a meeting Oct. 11 to discuss the district's options. The meeting will also review previous long-term district goals developed in 2000.

"We thought it would be good to look at those recommendations again," Batterson said. "We would like to find out if this is where people would like to see us go, or if there should be another way."

In other matters, the board:

Learned the district has refinanced its $25.5 million capital debt, with a better-than-expected savings of more than $1 million. Last month, Peter Michaelsen, assistant superintendent of finance, recommended the district take advantage of a onetime offer to refinance the district's multimillion-dollar capital-improvement project from 2000, in the face of more favorable interest rates.
When the deal was proposed, officials estimated the district could save about $900,000 over the next 15 years, the length of the loaned bond, based on the estimated interest rates at the time.
"You never know where the market is on any given day, but I'm pleased to report that we exceeded those projections," financial consultant Michael Neumeister told the board.

Designated as obsolete about 110 books and 50 videos, which -- at the suggestion of Trustee Thomas Balk -- will be donated to schools impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

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