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Board wants spending hike to be below 4%

The Starpoint School Board on Monday directed administrators to come up with a 2006-07 budget that keeps any increase in spending below 4 percent.

The board will consider adopting a budget when it meets April 10.

Despite the possibility the state may come through with more aid than the $16.97 million district officials are projecting, board President Sam J. Geraci said, "I feel I still have to consider district residents."

If the district gets more money from the state than it needs to fund its budget, Geraci said he felt the board should lower the property tax levy and give property taxpayers a small break.

"To go over 4 percent is not responsible. But staying at under 4 percent is a lot better psychologically. So my parameter is I don't want to see a 4 percent budget-to-budget increase. Keep it below 4 percent," Geraci said.

His fellow board members agreed but added that budget increases are not the same as tax rate increases. Tax rate increases would be far less than a spending increase. Director of Administrative Services Stephen J. Lunden said he would be able to home in on the tax rate figures much more accurately once the final budget proposal has been put together.

Over the past two months, the board has examined a number of budget scenarios, the first being the $38.55 million it would cost to provide students the identical program the district offered this year at a $36.4 million price tag. That would represent a 3.39 percent budget to budget increase without adding anything new.

Most recently, board members looked at a number of requests that could push the budget up to $39.21 million next year, a 5.15 percent increase that would include added programs.

The district also is spending about $259,822 on new computer hardware and software, textbooks and library equipment, but that will be reimbursed through special state and Board of Cooperative Educational Services programs.

Superintendent C. Douglas Whelan said the budget automatically rose to $38.55 million because of $1.3 million in increased costs the board had no control over. They include about $539,843 in energy costs, $127,000 in state retirement system costs, $217,000 in higher health insurance premiums, an added $335,714 in special-education costs and $81,000,404 in transportation costs.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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