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Unexpected developments put district in good fiscal health, auditors say

Enjoying unexpected increases in revenue and cuts in spending, the Tonawanda City School District received a clean bill of fiscal health when the results of an annual independent audit were presented to the School Board on Tuesday night.

Richard Ertel of Amato, Fox & Company said the additional Erie County sales tax payments and an increase in state funding led to an increase of about $1.2 million in income for the 2007-08 school year. In addition, Tonawanda spent approximately $1 million less than budgeted. "You had a good year," Ertel told the board. "You're on your way back up."

The audit noted some applications for free and reduced lunches were not completed properly, but Assistant Superintendent Peter Michaelsen was already working to rectify the error. Ertel complimented administrators in the district for the additional revenue, cutting spending and paying off outstanding debt.

"To me, that's a recipe for a good district," he said.

Board member Anthony Melchorrie quickly pointed out that the unexpected revenue came from the previous school year, not as a result of the city's recent revaluation of property assessments that went into effect this fall. Several residents complained to the board last month after they received their school tax bills.

"A major reason [for our additional revenue] is because we were able to control spending," he said.

In other action, the board unanimously approved appointing former president William Weber to temporarily fill a vacant board seat until June 30. Longtime board member Charles Heylmun left office last month because of personal reasons. After serving for several years, Weber decided not to run for re-election this year but continued to attend regular board meetings since initially retiring his seat in June.

The School Board also voted to cancel the district high school summer remedial program again next year. Because of construction at the high school, Tonawanda sent its students to Grand Island for summer school in 2008.

Assistant Superintendent Mary Beth Scullion recommended the district continue outsourcing summer school for high school students in 2009. The motion to suspend in-district summer school passed, 6-1, with board Vice President Lynn Casal voting against it.

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