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School district's budget plan defeated for second time

For the second straight time, voters in the Lackawanna City School District on Tuesday voted down a proposed $45.1 million school budget for 2011-12.

The unofficial tally was 1,186 to 1,020.

Annette Iafallo, the school district clerk, said Tuesday that affidavit ballots remain to be counted this morning. Meanwhile, the School Board will meet at 7 tonight in Martin Road Elementary School, 135 Martin Road, to certify the results of Tuesday's revote before holding its regular business meeting.

After the budget proposal was first defeated at the polls last month, the board on May 24 unanimously agreed to give the same budget adopted in April a second chance on the ballot.

After the May 17 defeat, Lackawanna residents were lobbied both by those for and against the budget proposal. One postcard mailed to residents advised them to "vote yes to save student programs."

A no vote, the card warned, would result in major cuts to interscholastic athletics, the district's prekindergarten program, school security and full-day kindergarten.

Meanwhile, another flier put out by Lackawanna Parents for Quality Schools advised residents to vote no on the proposed school budget, charging that those coaxing residents to pass the budget were engaging in lies and scare tactics.

"School will not close and students will be taught," the flier read.

"The politicians will not be able to give their friends and family members the jobs they were promised," it further asserted.

The spending plan -- which is 2.57 percent higher than the current budget, but would increase homestead property taxes by 4.88 percent -- was one of five in Western New York to fail with voters back on May 17. The margin of defeat was just 47 votes.

After the May 17 vote, School Board President John Makeyenko insisted that the board presented its best possible budget plan. It called for cutting nine full-time teachers and two part-time teaching positions from the budget, as well as a 25 percent cut to sports programs, extracurricular activities and materials and supplies, and the elimination of several vacant positions.

Along with other cuts, $1.77 million would have been trimmed from the budget. In addition, school officials have already made $945,000 in staff reductions that were implemented during the current school year.

Having failed to pass muster with voters for a second time, the district will now have to turn to a contingency budget. Superintendent Nicholas D. Korach has said that will result in significant layoffs. The contingency budget would amount to $44.1 million -- a tiny increase from the current budget of $44 million.

The defeated spending plan called for a homestead tax rate of $10.35 per $1,000 of assessed valuation -- an increase of 45 cents per $1,000 that would have resulted in an annual increase of about $18 for a home assessed at $70,000.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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