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Board OKs budget calling for increase of 1.93% in tax levy 17 jobs cut in plan for $29.5 million

With a plan to raise the tax levy by 1.93 percent, the Tonawanda City School Board adopted a proposed $29.5 million budget for the 2012-13 school year during its meeting Tuesday night.

The budget decreases spending by 1.65 percent from this year's fiscal plan and calls for eliminating the equivalent of 17 full-time jobs, three of which will be lost to attrition from retirements.

Based on the current city assessment, the proposed budget would increase the property tax rate to $17.35 per $1,000, a rise of 1.69 percent from the current rate, meaning that homeowners would pay an additional $33 on a home assessed at $100,000.

The district is also using more of its savings to balance the budget, increasing the initial $800,000 amount to $1.1 million. Business Administrator Joseph A. Giarrizzo said the Tonawanda district is currently spending below budget to produce unanticipated savings.

"We had a good year, in a lot of respects," he said. "We've been able to accumulate some surplus."

Superintendent Whitney K. Vantine said the 2012-13 fiscal plan not only helps the district next year, but also sets Tonawanda up well for future budgets "if things align themselves."

"We believe it is a wise budget; a prudent budget -- fiscally sound," Vantine said. "We believe next year's budget we'll be able to get through easier. From my perspective, we feel the budget is something the board should be comfortable with."

However, several board members believe that future budgets will only get worse, especially if the state continues to cut and limit funding to districts.

"Every year, it seems to get more difficult and more difficult," said Jennifer L. Mysliwy, board vice president. "I feel confident we are making appropriate choices."

The board adopted the budget by a 6-1 vote, with the only opposition coming from Demelt F. Shaw. He said his vote doesn't reflect on the proposal put together by administrators, but rather a desire to see Tonawanda raise even more revenue with a higher tax increase.

"It's not about [job] cuts," he said. "Unfortunately, they had to be done. I do believe that we have some tough times ahead. I believe [the tax increase] should be higher because of what we have coming in the future. If we don't get this appropriated fund balance up, it will [force] more cutting of staff. I don't know how much staff we can cut."

"I take this process very seriously," said board President Sharon Stuart. "We have to look out for our taxpayers, and we have to make sure we're providing the best education for our kids."

The budget represents the first tax increase the district has asked for in a few years.

"If you look at the cycle over the past three or four years," Vantine said, "the board should be very pleased [with the budget]."

For complete coverage, go to buf falonews.com/tonawanda.