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Board works on trimming tax increase

A tax increase appeared certain next year in the Lackawanna School District, even though the School Board continues to whittle away at what began as a projected boost of 15.25 percent.

With a projected adoption date of April 12, board members met Monday for another budget work session.

"We are looking at getting it . . . somewhere around 6 percent," School Superintendent Paul G. Hashem said of the tax increase Monday. "I think we're pretty close."

The biggest unknown remains the cost of the settlement between owners of the former Bethlehem Steel Corp. property and the city, school district and Erie County. "That has to do with not only the loss of revenue, but the repayment of taxes -- the refunds," Hashem said.

The current budget, which voters approved on the first ballot last year, totaled $33.2 million. The proposed budget for next year now calls for spending less than $35 million, Hashem said -- mostly for mandated expenses.

"Actually, it maintains the reductions that we've done in the last few years, including . . . larger classes than we would really like [to have] at the elementary [level]," Hashem said.

The district faces a reduction of $135,000 in two sources of state aid, but Hashem said he remains hopeful about state legislators' plans to increase funding for public schools. The Assembly already has included a significant increase for Lackawanna in its version of the budget, he said.

"Usually, what the Assembly proposes is going to be very close to what we get," Hashem said. "This should help."

Hashem also said he was happy that the Legislature is trying to meet its March 31 budget deadline.

"That gives us almost two weeks to look at the real numbers before the budget vote," he said.

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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