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Voters OK 2 propositions to cut deficit

Voters in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District on Tuesday overwhelming approved two cost-saving measures aimed at helping to reduce a projected $12 million hole in the district's spending plan for the 2012-13 school year.

A proposition to sell the Green Acres Building, a former school on Yorkshire Road, for no less than $850,000 was approved by voters, 2,174 to 541, better than a 4-to-1 ratio.

A second proposition -- to increase the minimum distances at which school bus service will be provided in the district -- passed by a vote of 2,525 to 169, a ratio of nearly 15-to-1.

The vote allows the district to sell the nearly 73,000-square-foot Green Acres Building. However, the adjacent soccer field, basketball court, playground and other green space are excluded from the sale, and the green space will be kept by the district for student use.

The results of Tuesday's referendum on bus service allows the district to increase the minimum distances for which school buses will be provided to 1.5 miles, from 1.2 miles, for middle school students and to 1.8 miles, from 1.5 miles, for high school students.

Elementary school students, all of whom are currently eligible for bus service, will no longer be eligible for bus service if they live within a half-mile of school.

The changes to the bus service policy are expected to save the district about $300,000 a year.

"The community was heavily involved in making critically important decisions that helped us close this massive budget gap," School Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro said in a news release.

"Our district was open, honest and transparent in our budget process. In addition to our Board of Education meetings, we communicated with our community about how dire the budget deficit was during four public budget work sessions. Taxpayers were well-informed and heavily involved in this vote."

Mondanaro said district officials received almost 450 responses to an online budget survey, which the superintendent credited as one of the reasons why voters overwhelmingly backed the propositions.

Increases in state aid will enable the district to keep full-day kindergarten.