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Budget plan holds increase under 4%

A preliminary Sweet Home school budget of $57.4 million for 2006-07 that is up 3.95 percent from this year's spending plan was unveiled Tuesday by Thomas Miller, the district's director of finance.

Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks said district officials made a concerted effort to develop a budget that increased spending by less than 4 percent.

"That is going to be our lowest increase in several years," Hicks said. "We are maintaining the integrity of our academic program, and we are looking out for our taxpayers."

Hicks said that a first draft of the budget greatly exceeded the 4 percent mark and that the budget committee had whittled the budget down to a smaller figure.

Gov. George E. Pataki has put forth a proposal that would reward districts that keep their budget within a 4 percent rate of increase with a $400 tax refund for district residents the following tax year. However, that proposal has yet to be approved by the State Legislature.

District residents living in Amherst and Amherst businesses could see a modest tax increase of between 1.6 and 3.5 percent, depending on the change in town assessments, Miller said. District residents living in the Town of Tonawanda could see an increase of between 1.5 and 3.4 percent, depending on changes in assessments, while Tonawanda businesses could see an increase of between 3.5 and 3.8 percent, Miller said.

Miller said the district will save more than $400,000 in health insurance premiums as a result of adopting one health insurance provider.
However, the district also begins financing its $23.9 million middle school renovation project, resulting in higher construction and purchasing costs.

The School Board is scheduled to approve a final budget April 3, and a public hearing on the budget is scheduled May 2. The district budget vote will be May 16.

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