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Plan to cut up to 45 jobs in school budget is on Niagara Falls agenda

NIAGARA FALLS – A plan to cut as many as 45 jobs in the school district will be the subject of a public hearing Thursday.

District officials have yet to decide how to use more than $800,000 in additional state aid in their proposed $133.6 million spending plan, including whether the funds will help save some of the $2 million in job cuts or stave off other budget-cutting measures.

Under a scenario presented in March that officials are now working from, there would be 20 teaching positions cut, as well as 19 classroom associates, four support staff members, an administrator and the equivalent of 1.6 classified administration posts.

In its spending proposal, the district would spend $2.1 million of its savings – which would wipe out its fund balance – so another option could be whether to put some of the money back into reserves.

The number of people who will lose their jobs depends largely on the number of employees who retire. The district has not finalized which specific positions will be cut, officials said.

That process might extend into August, Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco said last week.

“We won’t even be getting to finalize any list of reductions until the end of June,” Bianco said.

Other cuts that have been proposed include:

• $400,000 in computer purchases.

• $268,000, or 10 percent, in supplies and materials.

• $145,000 for the district’s summer camp.

• $300,000 for special-education classes that would be brought back to the district from the Orleans Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

• The modified sports program, which costs $50,000.

The district’s initial spending proposal was developed before the state released its aid figures, and the district subsequently learned that it will receive about $838,000 more than it had projected.

Under four budget scenarios presented in March, potential job cuts were estimated to be between about 45 and 69, with 20 to 43 being teaching positions.

Part of the district’s increased costs is a $2.5 million increase in health insurance for retirees.

The spending plan calls for no increase in the $25.8 million tax levy, but will require more than 60 percent of voters to approve it because the existing levy exceeds the state’s property tax cap.

If a supermajority vote is not obtained, the district may eventually institute a contingency budget that is virtually the same as what has been proposed, except for about $200,000 in additional cuts, district Finance Director Joseph A. Giarrizzo has previously said.

The hearing on the 2015-16 spending plan will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in the third-floor amphitheater in Niagara Falls High School, 4455 Porter Road.

The budget vote and School Board election will be held May 19.