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BUDGET LOWERS HOMEOWNERS' TAXES, HIKES BUSINESSES'

A tentative 2000 budget for the Town of Tonawanda would lower property taxes for homeowners while slightly increasing the tax rate on non-homestead, or business, properties, Supervisor Carl J. Calabrese said Monday.

In unveiling his proposed budget at a Town Board meeting, Calabrese said the decreased tax rate for homeowners -- down an average of 2.27 percent from last year, factoring in various special districts throughout the town -- is the fourth consecutive town budget that does not increase taxes on residents.

It is also the third budget in a row that actively lowers taxes on homes in the town, said Calabrese before an audience of department heads, citizens, and some members of the Kenmore Democratic Committee. No audience members commented on the budget during the meeting.

"During the past three years of tax cuts, services have continued at their traditionally high level, and in fact have been expanded," said Calabrese. "This is the kind of government which taxpayers deserve and demand, but seldom actually see."

While taxes are falling for homeowners, local spending will actually climb next year by 2.5 percent, to a new total budget figure of $65.1 million, Calabrese said. The new budget draws on $6.9 million from last year as an appropriated fund balance for 2000, he said.

However, much of the spending increase is due to the construction of the new Brighton Park golf dome, an amount which will be fully paid for in user fees and advertising revenues, Calabrese said. Subtracting the golf-dome line from the new budget results in a total spending increase of only 1.7 percent over the 1999 budget, he said.

The 2000 tax levy -- the amount of money to be raised by town property taxes -- is tentatively set at $29.8 million, up less than one percent from this year, Calabrese said.

The new budget, if approved in final form by the board, will expand services in the town, especially in the perennially popular area of recreation, Calabrese said.

Among the upcoming improvements planned in the town in 2000 are a new in-line hockey league; 14 additional golf carts and upgraded sand traps at the town's two golf courses; target greens at the driving range; a new high-tech pitching machine at the batting cages; new equipment for the town Highway Department; and improvements to the Water Resources and Police departments.

Also included is $58,000 for repairs to a basement wall that is buckling at the Greenhaven branch library, Calabrese said.

Town Board members, completing an initial review of the tentative budget, praised the document.

Board members also scheduled two budget work sessions, to be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers on Oct. 7 and Oct. 14. The sessions are open to the public.

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