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LOCKPORT - Ultimate Physique, a longtime Lockport health club, has offered to buy the closed Washington Hunt Elementary School for $65,000.
The Lockport Board of Education voted unanimously and without comment Wednesday to place the deal on the May 20 ballot. If the voters give the go-ahead, the 33,200-square-foot, two-story school will be sold for that price.
Deborah A. Coder, assistant superintendent for finance and management, called the health club's deal "the only viable offer. They're the only ones who put money on the table."
The school on Rogers Avenue closed last June, the fourth elementary school the district has shut in recent years because of declining enrollment. It was built in 1929.
The health club's offer was far below the $195,000 appraised value the district had obtained for the building. Board Vice President David M. Nemi said Ultimate Physique needs to make the building handicapped-accessible and also remove asbestos.
"There's going to be a lot of abatement costs, maybe $300,000," Nemi said. "We're not paying any of it, and we get the $65,000."
"It was only on the market for two weeks," board member Diane Phelps said. "I would have taken longer to look for other buyers. I was also interested to see if we could rent it out."
She said she voted yes because "I want to hear the voice of the people."
Bob Muscarella, owner of Ultimate Physique, could not be reached Wednesday evening to comment on his plans. His business is currently located on Ann Street behind St. John the Baptist Catholic Church's Outreach Center.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, Coder presented a 2014-15 budget proposal that would raise the tax levy right to the district's cap of 2.26 percent.
The plan calls for cutting six positions by not filling spots that are to be vacated through retirements at the end of this school year. That part did not meet with the approval of the board, which is scheduled to adopt the budget next Wednesday.
Turning to Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley, board President John A. Linderman said, "I'm directing Mrs. Bradley to go back and produce savings that would eliminate any staffing reductions."
Bradley said after the meeting, "I don't know if we'll be able to recover all of it. We might get a third or a half."
Not filling the six jobs saved $716,886 in salary and benefit costs. That was the lion's share of $1.27 million in cuts made since January in the amount the district was projected to spend in 2014-15 to maintain the status quo of staff and programs. The affected jobs include two secondary teachers, one in math and the other in social studies, along with an elementary library media specialist and three teacher's aides.
Coder said if the district meets the tax cap, homeowners eligible for STAR exemptions would be reimbursed for their tax increases through rebate checks from the state, under terms of the newly passed state budget.
For a house assessed at $75,000, the amount of the increase - and the rebate - would be $25.82 for basic STAR and $6.71 for enhanced STAR.