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State aid picture worrisome

Stagnant state aid and possible teacher retirements are two challenges Pioneer School District officials said they are facing in preparing the 2006-07 budget.

The tentative spending plan shows an increase of 7.3 percent, to $40 million. School officials said they have not yet finalized an average tax rate for the district because state aid has not been finalized by the State Legislature.

Gov. George E. Pataki has proposed that average state aid for the district remain at $25 million, but Superintendent Jeff Bowen said the State Legislature may increase aid.

The board met in budget deliberations Tuesday night.

Bowen said the district is not considering early state retirement incentives, which the teachers union urged during last week's meeting of the School Board.

Union members said it is likely that cuts in teaching staff will mean the loss of too many young teachers if the district decides against the state incentive.

But Bowen said it is unlikely that the incentive will lead to more retirements. He said five to seven teachers currently are considering retirement.

Teachers have until Saturday o decide if they want to retire. Bowen said the School Board has decided not to offer a state incentive.

"You're paying people to retire when they would retire anyways," Bowen said. "They are not convinced that it will make any difference in teachers' thinking that they will retire."

School officials said other options include reducing staff and tapping into fund balances. School officials hope a budget will be drafted by April 12.

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