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Lawmakers refuse to increase NCCC's funding for 2011-12 Use of surplus advised as effort is made to prevent tuition hike to fill budget gap

The Niagara County Legislature refused Tuesday to increase its contribution to Niagara County Community College.

It also sought to bar NCCC from raising tuition more than planned in order to fill the resulting budget gap. However, NCCC President James P. Klyczek said that the Legislature could only make a recommendation and that there was no guarantee that it would be followed.

The college's $48.7 million budget for 2011-12 will include the same $8.87 million from the county that NCCC received for each of the previous four years.

Tuition was to rise by 4 percent, or $144 a year for a full-time student, even with the $354,840 county increase sought by the college.

The college has a $7.5 million surplus, which legislators said should be tapped to fill the gap.

"That's what we look at," Legislator Peter E. Smolinski, R-North Tonawanda, told Klyczek. "It won't do you any harm."

"I can't recommend that to the board," Klyczek said.

Before this development, the college already was spending $750,000 from the surplus.

Klyczek said he had not wanted to spend 10 percent of the surplus in one year, let alone the 15 percent suggested by legislators.

"The Legislature approves the budget, but it doesn't decide how we derive the income," Klyczek said in an interview.

On another matter, the contract for the county's new federally mandated emergency radio system was withdrawn from the agenda.

A joint meeting of two Legislature committees next Tuesday will try to settle the competing claims of Motorola Solutions and Harris Corp. of Rochester.

Motorola had been the front-runner for months, but last week the Administration and the Community Safety and Security committees unanimously chose Harris.

County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz said, "Each side will have their statistics and their positions laid out by us and our consultant [L.R. Kimball Associates of Pittsburgh]."

Harris' bid of $13.4 million included 1,854 new radios for all police, fire and emergency users in the county; new base stations; and a plan to construct eight new radio towers in addition to the reuse of three existing ones.

The cost of the tower construction is to be bid separately, bringing the estimated price tage for the new system to slightly over $15 million.

But Motorola, in a letter to Glatz on Thursday, contended that the county had leaked technical information about its plans to Harris so that company could beat Motorola's bid, which had been about $18 million.

Motorola's letter reduced its bid to $9.75 million, not counting the eight towers, and said that if the county wanted as many brand-new radios as Harris proposed, the price would be $11.1 million.

Motorola had envisioned reusing Niagara County's existing Motorola radios.

The company contends that its equipment is superior to Harris'.

Motorola intends to use a single radio network, while Harris is proposing to split the county into eastern and western cells.

The Federal Communications Commission is requiring emergency radio users to make over their systems so they take up less space on the radio spectrum, an adjustment called "narrowbanding."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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