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$70.1 million budget reduces tax levy

After two months of deliberation, the Lockport School Board on Wednesday adopted a $70.1 million budget for 2007-08 that will reduce the tax levy and add some student programs.

It also is expected to lower the property tax rate slightly, but not enough information on property assessments is available yet to allow the district to give an accurate estimate of what that rate may be, Assistant School Superintendent Gerald J. Stuitje said.

The proposed budget, which goes to the voters for approval at the annual budget referendum May 15, exceeds this year's spending package by 3.48 percent or $2.35 million. A 10.2 percent increase in state aid -- $2.7 million -- helped cover increased costs and enabled the board to add a couple of programs, Superintendent Terry Ann Carbone said.

The budget will cut the current tax levy by $344,857, from $30.4 million to $30.1 million, a 1.13 percent decrease.

"The part I'm most pleased with is I think we were fiscally responsible. And with the support of the governor's budget we were able to bring back sixth-grade intramurals, which we haven't had for several years," Carbone said. "I think this will not only enhance the quality of school life for our sixth-graders, but also will give them opportunities to become an active part of the school system. Bottom line, I think if you have busy kids who enjoy school, you have kids who are managing their time better and doing better academically."

Also, the board earmarked $5,646 to provide stipends of anywhere from $500 to $1,200 to fine arts teachers who help students with public productions such as musicals and jazz band and choir performances, she said.

She also credited Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer with providing small city school districts money that had not been forthcoming in previous administrations.

"The extra state aid was absolutely helpful. But I think our schools deserved it, and our taxpayers deserved it. It should have been coming to us for a while just out of fairness," Carbone said.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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