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Session on budget draws no one

A second public session Monday asking how Clarence schools should deal with a potential $2 million loss in state in the budget for next year met with the same fate as the first meeting late last month:

No one showed up.

As it now stands, the proposed $70.38 million budget for the 2009-10 school year increases spending slightly more than 2 percent, or by $1.46 million. The instructional program sees spending rise to a little more than $51 million; and administrative costs increase to about $5.5 million, or 2.36 percent.

Spending for capital projects reaches $13.7 million in the preliminary budget, inching up about 1 percent, according to information released by Superintendent Thomas Coseo at the meeting in Harris Hill Elementary School.

Coseo said the School Board has already determined that the tax levy will increase no more than 2 percent.

But meeting its goals requires juggling. If the current program continued as is, expenses would jump $2.5 million, Coseo said. And on top of that is Gov. David A. Paterson's executive budget, which calls for reducing state aid to school districts on a sliding scale. Under Paterson's proposal, aid to Clarence schools will be reduced by 11 percent, or $2 million.

That could - and traditionally does - change as a governor's budget proposal wends its way through the Legislature. Local schools usually end up doing better in the final state budget than earlier versions. In fact, Clarence got lucky this year, enjoying a 15 percent bump in state aid.

But Coseo says officials are worried about the state's dire economic straits and are looking at ways of cutting to deal with the loss of state aid and to stay within the taxing and spending parameters the board has set.

Among the ideas being discussed:

*Continuing a hiring freeze that was started last November, when Paterson first announced the need to cut spending.

*Saving up to $1 million by not replacing retiring teachers.

*Continuing cuts to supplies and equipment, which would save up to $300,000, Coseo said.

*Using $3.8 million of the fund balance, about $2 million of which would be building aid reimbursement.

The district's third, and final, "public input" session is scheduled for 7 p. m. March 9 in Sheridan Hill Elementary School, although a formal public hearing also will be held March 30 in Clarence Middle School. A public vote on the budget is scheduled from 7 a. m. to 9 p. m. May 19 in the Clarence High School gymnasium.

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