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Four draft budgets received, hiking tax from 2% to 5.6%

The Starpoint School Board on Monday reviewed four possible budget proposals for the 2006-07 school year ranging from $38.6 million to $39.3 million.

The figures exceed the current year's $36.4 million budget by 3.54 percent to 5.43 percent and could carry anywhere from a 2.04 percent to a 5.65 percent tax increase depending on which programs the board decides to keep, eliminate or add, School Superintendent C. Douglas Whelan said.

He told the board if it decided to keep programs as they are and carry them over to next year, the budget will increase by $2.2 million, mostly "because of increased costs we have no control over."

Stephen J. Lunden, director of administrative services, said a portion of those costs come in the form of rising energy prices.

He estimated the district will spend an additional $539,843 for natural gas, electricity and diesel fuel in the 2006-2007 budget.

Another large increase will come in the form of $720,842 in negotiated salary hikes, $127,000 in added costs for district contributions to the state Teachers Retirement System and a $217,000 hike in health costs to cover district employees.

He said special-education programs through the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services will increase by $335,714, and the district bus transportation costs will jump by $81,404.

The board also reviewed proposals to bolster academic intervention services in reading for students at the primary and intermediate school levels as well as adding a nurse to help care for pupils with serious health problems in both elementary schools.

If the board funds those added programs, they would add an extra $88,000 to the proposed budget.

The board also looked at requests from the high school and middle schools that, taken together, would add $704,171 to the budget. That $39.3 million option would raise the spending package by 5.43 percent and the tax rate by an estimated 5.65 percent.

The board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday to continue budget deliberations. It expects to adopt a budget April 10. The final budget will be put up for a public vote May 16.

In other business, the board awarded a $575,955 contract to Weaver Metal & Roofing to repair roofs and patch roofs on the middle, intermediate and primary schools.

The area contractor submitted the lowest bid, coming in at almost $200,000 below estimates. Three other contractors bid on the project. The work will be done this summer.

The board also was informed that the district has been awarded a $75,000 state grant to have a Niagara County sheriff's deputy work full time as a school resource officer in Starpoint Middle School in 2006-2007.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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