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Tax increase seen likely for schools

After keeping the tax levy essentially unchanged over the past three years, it appears the Lockport School Board may have a hard time finding ways to keep district costs and the tax levy at status quo in its 2006-07 budget.

On Tuesday, the board tangled with multiple budget items to see if there were areas to cut.

Board members discussed the possibility of eliminating a mathematics teaching position or two gifted and talented teaching positions. They also discussed the possibility of cutting $25,000 in equipment costs for district sports and possibly raising class sizes in some high school subject areas in an effort to reduce costs.

But members, at least for Tuesday's session, were unable to agree on whether there was anything they could cut besides items district officials had previously suggested at other budget review sessions.

"It's going to be difficult" to find things to cut, Superintendent Bruce T. Fraser has said on more than one occasion since budget deliberations got under way in early February.

He said the board has cut, sliced and nipped away at budget items for the past several years trying to keep spending and taxes down. "There's not much there to work with," he said.

Nevertheless, the board asked administrators to check several items and to see if it was possible to cut back 10 percent on supplies and equipment for each district building; determine if some money can be taken from the fund balance -- there could be $150,000 more in that account than the state requires -- and other suggestions that the district might be able to live with.

Board President W. Keith McNall said the district right now is facing a possible 4.79 percent budget increase unless the board can find a way to avoid it.

The current year's budget is $64,721,775. The current suggested budget comes to $67,819,827, $3,098,052 or 4.79 percent higher than this year's.

A lot could depend on how much state aid will be coming to the district. Fraser said he hopes to find that out before the board meets again on the budget at 7:30 p.m. April 5 in the district administrative offices, 130 Beattie Ave.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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