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It was with a rueful eye to 1989 that the Tonawanda Common Council Wednesday adopted a budget for the year 2000.

The spending plan includes a tax increase of 2.64 percent, or $26 for the owner of an average $60,000 home.

The irony, Council members said, is that expenditures actually decreased from the current year -- except for one line: judgments and settlements.

The Council set aside $270,000 in next year's budget to cover payments for settlements in two major lawsuits filed against the city, including a $2.5 million jury award earlier this year in the Carlson lawsuit.

"The reality of the situation is we've cut out things from the budget all because we had a situation 11 years ago that had a dramatic effect on this budget," said Council President Carleton R. Zeisz.

When the Council looked at Mayor Alice A. Roth's budget proposal two weeks ago, it saw a 4.5 percent tax increase and decided it was too high.

It was able to trim the tax increase in part by taking $60,000 out of the amount set aside for the lawsuit settlements. Zeisz said the original $330,000 allocated to that line was an estimated figure, and the Council felt comfortable decreasing it.

"We felt even with our current situation, we were able to make a little bit of an adjustment to that line," he said.

The 2000 budget also got a large boost from an unexpected $100,000 in additional Aid to Localities funding from the state for the 1999 budget.

The Council used some of that money to cover expenditures initially targeted for next year's budget, and in the end were able to pare expenses for 2000.

Two police cars were included in the expenditures that were moved from 2000 to 1999, enabling the city to restore the two police cars that were cut from early budget maneuvers.

The Council Wednesday also decided to restore $6,000 for paramedic training for two firefighters after they learned that at least $5,000 of it likely would be repaid.

Council members said although they felt hindered by the looming lawsuit settlements, they were pleased with the progress made in trimming the burden to taxpayers.

"I made the statement at the last meeting that I wanted it down to 2 (percent), but that's pretty good," said 3rd Ward Alderman Ronald J. Pilozzi. "I am gratified we were able to take this budget and trim it by 2 percent. It's pretty close to what I requested."

"I'm not happy about any percentage increase, but it was almost 5 percent last week, and now it's 2 (percent)," said 4th Ward Alderman Thomas W. Smyers.

There does remain, though, an awareness that the 2000 budget, deemed "bare bones" by the mayor, leaves virtually no leeway.

"I hope it's not too bare," said 2nd Ward Alderman Jack E. Gallagher. "I hope we can get through the year without any unforeseen circumstances."

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