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Clarence school budget plans for elimination of 40 positions

The Clarence Central School District has proposed the elimination of 40 positions in 2011-12 to bridge a $2.77 million gap in state funding.

Superintendent Thomas G. Coseo presented his final budget proposal to the School Board at a hearing Monday night attended by more than 50 teachers, parents and taxpayers. Coseo described the three-month budget process as "trying" and "disconcerting."

"In my 30 years of putting budgets together, this has been the hardest," said Coseo, who is retiring this year.

Coseo's budget calls for a $1.6 million spending decrease from 2010-11 -- including the elimination of 24 instructional positions and 16 non-instructional positions -- to offset the 12 percent loss in state aid to the district. Coseo estimated half of the positions could be eliminated through retirement.

"There is a human side to these cuts, and we do feel bad about that," said board President Michael Lex. "Nobody likes to see people go out the door -- particularly bright, young, dedicated teachers who make a difference."

Lex and board Vice President Elaine Diederich said they fully supported the budget.

The budget calls for $39.5 million to come from property taxes, an increase of $1 million from 2010-11 and a $197,120 increase from 2007-08.

Surplus funds of about $5 million will be used to offset the tax levy, the same amount as in 2010-11.

"Of course I'm disappointed," Clarence Teachers Association President Elizabeth Dunne said. "I think there are other ways we can accomplish the task without drastic cuts."

Dunne said the board should examine the tax rate further to find out whether it is in keeping with household income and property values. Board member John Semler said the board received a "vociferous" response at a budget workshop when it proposed a higher rate.

Coseo pointed to enrollment figures that have been declining since 2008 to explain the elimination of 5.4 English, science, social studies, technology and physical education positions at Clarence High, Middle and elementary schools.

He also said $650,000 in federal stimulus funds expire in June, so three reading teachers and one psychologist-social worker would be cut. Two high school guidance counselors, a remedial learning center in the middle school and elementary and middle school summer school programs would be cut. Elementary music courses would be reduced from two to one per week.

Three administrative "teacher on special assignment" positions would be cut, along with one bus driver, one mechanic and three maintenance workers. The district may also share a transportation supervisor with Akron, and the number of aides will be reduced.

In all, 72 percent of the $70.6 million budget is comprised of instructional funds, while 20 percent of funds are for capital needs and 8 percent for administration. The only spending increases were for benefits and Board of Cooperative Educational Services funding.

"The students' day-to-day life will change very little next year," the superintendent said.

The board did not allow public comments. The budget will be adopted April 11 and go to voters May 17.

e-mail: cspecht@buffnews.com

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