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Budget for city schools aired in Tonawanda

With the budget vote a week away, the Tonawanda City School District held a public hearing Tuesday night that outlined the proposed $29.5 million spending plan.

The proposed budget includes a spending decrease of 1.65 percent but would raise the tax levy by 1.93 percent.

Joseph A. Giarrizzo, business administrator for the district, said that Tonawanda has managed to keep the tax levy flat over the last few years and that this year's proposal represents the first tax levy increase that city residents have seen in four years.

"The board has done a really good job at holding the line on the tax levy," Giarrizzo said. "We're less than we were five years ago. The tax levy has come nowhere near the inflation [rate]."

Other key points noted by Giarrizzo included an explanation of the district's anticipated revenue, 52 percent of which comes from the state, which increased funding by $355,558. The increase helps offset the loss of nearly $800,000 from federal economic-stimulus funding that expired this year.

Tax levy collections account for about 22 percent of anticipated revenues, and Tonawanda plans to use about $1.1 million from its fund balance savings.

About 70 percent of the district's budget is tied to programs, which is considered to be anything not tied to administration or capital costs. Salaries and benefits for employees account for 66 percent of the budget.

Not mentioned in the presentation was the elimination of 17 full-time-equivalent positions within the district to help close a budget gap.

Giarrizzo said that class sizes in the district would continue to be optimal and that all programs will remain intact.

After the hearing, the Board of Education held a meeting that honored many of the district's sports teams, as Tonawanda concluded one of the more successful overall seasons the Warriors have ever had.

Members of the varsity girls and boys swim, girls and boys bowling, and girls and boys varsity basketball teams and wrestler Cody McGregor were recognized for championships, while members of the boys varsity swim team were honored for being scholar-athletes.

The board also recognized National Technical Honor Society inductees and a regional spelling bee champion, as well as three staff members for their work in the district.