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School Board to review budget plan

After several months of preparation and review, School Superintendent Carmen A. Granto recommended Thursday that the School Board adopt a $111.4 million budget for the 2006-07 school year.

The board accepted the plan and agreed to take formal action at next Thursday's board meeting after it reviews the spending package and suggests changes if it has any to offer.

The board also voted to approve selling the former South Junior High School to a developer who wants to raze it and build an apartment complex. That plan is subject to a public referendum May 16 along with the school budget and election of two candidates to board seats.

The budget contains no increase in property taxes for the 14th straight year. But about 36 teachers and six non-instructional staff will be laid off.

The property tax rate will only change depending on how much the city decides to lower the non-homestead property tax rate on business and commercial properties in its attempt to lower that rate gradually until it becomes the same as the tax rate homeowners pay, District Business Administrator James Ingrasci said.

The proposed budget exceeds the current $107.2 million budget by $4.2 million, which Granto said should mostly be covered by an anticipated $3.5 million in increased state aid.

Granto said the district could get as much as $3.9 million in added state aid if the Legislature approves the school spending package the Assembly has proposed.

Ingrasci said the budget increase is mostly due to rising costs for things like employee salary, health insurance and retirement costs, and the soaring price of energy will account for $3.9 million of the increase.

"Salaries will increase by $1.6 million next year. Pension costs are going up $720,000 and health insurance will be up by $970,000.

On the South Junior matter, the board agreed to sell the former school to Regan Development Corp. of Ardsley for $75,000. The firm will pay to have the building demolished for an estimated $900,000, and will guarantee paying more if the cost is greater.

Under the agreement, Regan must comply with all legal requirements and have project financing in line by February 2008.

Regan wants to build 120 apartments there at an estimated cost of about $20 million.

Granto said the development would include one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments with modest rents for people "making less than $40,000 a year or whatever the median household income is in Niagara County." He estimated the one-bedroom apartments would be rented for between $350 and $450 a month; two-bedrooms, $450 to $550; and three-bedrooms up to as much as $800 a month.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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