Members of North Tonawanda's Ghostlight Theatre Company and their supporters turned out in force at Monday night's public hearing on the city's preliminary 2001 budget to protest the loss of city support.
Wearing Ghostlight Theatre sweat shirts, speaker after speaker went to the microphone in the standing-room-only Council chambers to plead for restoration of funds to support the city-funded community theater.
Putting back funds for the theater program, which is run by the city Recreation Department, appeared unlikely by a meeting scheduled for Wednesday night to adopt the budget.
Council President Catherine G. Schwandt did promise, however, that the Council would "work with" the theater to find a way to make it self-sustaining by next year.
Ghostlight is entering its 30th season this year, according to L. Don Swartz, director of the theater and a Recreation Department employee.
Supporters of the theater contend that discontinuing it would damage the city's cultural opportunities and would be a disservice to the youth of the community who participate in the theater program.
City Accountant David R. Jakubaszek, who presided at the public hearing, gave an overview of the proposed budget:
A general fund of $25,315,390 -- an increase of $1,046,640 over the 2000 adopted budget.
The estimated tax rate is $14.48 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of 29 cents over the current rate of $14.19 per $1,000.
Three other proposed budgets, separate from the general fund, are:
Water fund, $2,630,182, down $2,806 from the 2000 budget.
Sewer fund, $4,290,255, an increase of $108,983. Water rates and sewer rates remain unchanged from last year, at $2.20 and $3.10 per 1,000 gallons of water, respectively, for the water and sewer funds.
The capital improvements budget, $4,829,000 -- $2,654,000 in state aid and $2,175,000 in bonds.
Besides Ghostlight Theatre supporters, others protesting the city's preliminary budget included Assistant Fire Chief Gregory R. Frank, who is charge of fire training. He predicted that cuts to the Fire Department's budget now threaten human life and property, and he pleaded for restoration of the department appropriation.
While the budget hearing was under way in City Hall, a separate information meeting on an application by Burger King to expand its operation on Payne Avenue was being held across town in the Col. Payne Community Center. City officials generally favor the Burger King rezoning application to expand its operation, which would involve the demolition of two adjoining residences.
Residents, led by Craig Raines of 325 East Ave. and Darlene Bolsover of 324 East Ave., argued that they were never given enough notification of Burger King's plan, charging that it was a "done deal."
They contend that the restaurant expansion would depreciate their property values, further congest traffic in the area and endanger the safety of children.
The firm's rezoning application is subject to approval by the Common Council and the city's Planning and Zoning boards.