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East Aurora School Board ready to adopt $29.11 million budget

The East Aurora School Board is poised to adopt a $29.11 million budget for 2012-13 that restores most of the music curriculum at Parkdale Elementary School and results in fewer total staff cuts, but will still mean painful changes for the high school.

The board on Wednesday seemed supportive of the third budget draft -- allowing for the reinstatement of 2.1 full-time equivalent positions for general music instruction and restoration of fourth-grade band and orchestra at the Parkdale school.

The latest revisions also call for a 0.6 keyboarding position to be reinstated for third and fourth-grade levels, as well as a 0.5 social worker/psychologist position at the high school.

In all, 11.1 full-time equivalent jobs will be cut in the new budget, with 8.1 of them occurring at the high school. Initially, the district had been eyeing the elimination of 13.2 positions.

Additional state aid of $41,888, along with anticipated increased sales tax revenues of $86,302, allowed the district to cover $128,190 in new budget adjustments. There also is $22,000 in savings from the retirement of one support staff employee.

Many board members praised the restorations that were possible, but expressed continued concern about the impact of the high school cuts that are still being studied, along with tweaking the length of classes.

"I thought it was great news to see some programs restored," board member Eric Sweet said. "We still face hardships at the high school."

Board member Stephen Zagrobelny again reiterated concerns about the long-term financial impact on the district of long-term funding of the full-day kindergarten program that is part of the new budget. He remained skeptical of state foundation aid numbers and how the district will fare once conversion aid is exhausted.

As he continued to argue his points for several minutes, board president Daniel Brunson eventually -- after polling fellow board members -- insisted that Zagrobelny stop.

The latest budget draft does not include full-blown restoration of high school electives, which are tied to a cut of 3.2 full-time equivalent staff. To restore some of the electives to accommodate an eight-period school day would cost between $185,000 and $200,000, Superintendent Brian Russ said after the meeting.

Instead, the district may try to run electives on a rotating basis, perhaps every other year. The high school also might have to alternate its advanced placement course offerings and maybe some course electives would run for half of a year, instead of a full academic year.

The board announced a proposed retirement incentive offer to teachers and some unidentified administrator positions, containing three options, with an April 25 deadline.

One scenario would have the district cover 80 percent of the retiring employee's health insurance costs for six years or up to age 65, with the employee covering the remaining 20 percent. A second option calls for the district to compensate the retiring employee up to 35 percent of his unused sick time. A third option would allow for a customized, individual incentive agreed to by the district and teachers' union that could include a combination of the first two scenarios.

The district did not yet release specific details on the projected tax rate impact or spending changes, but the board is expected to vote on adopting the budget proposal at its April 18 meeting. The proposed budget does not exceed East Aurora's allowable tax levy cap of 3.46 percent.