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The Tonawanda City School Board Wednesday, in a 6-1 vote, approved a $17.6 million budget for 1990-91 that is up 4.5 percent from this year.

As a result of the city's recent assessment update, individual taxes will vary, with some city homeowners possibly seeing a slight tax decrease, according to district officials.

And since the assessment updates resulted in a 33 percent increase in the total valuation of properties in the city, the school district's overall tax rate will decrease 20 percent, to $13.16 per $1,000 of assessed valuation from $16.44.

Board member William Watson turned thumbs down on the budget after an unsuccessful attempt to get fellow board members to seek further cuts he hoped would lower the overall increase in the tax levy to 5 percent from 6.9 percent. He also indicated the budget carried at least $1 million in undesignated funds.

Watson first targeted an $800,000 surplus being carried over from this year's budget which, he said, could be used to reduce the tax burden.

"Certainly some of this money -- at least 10 percent of it -- could be used to drop (the tax levy increase) down to 5 percent," Watson said.

Fellow board members and school administrators however, argued that trimming the budget would only harm the district's ability to meet emergencies and unanticipated state mandates.

"Each and every board member is interested in keeping taxes down," said board member Richard E. Perry. "That would be the popular move. But I am convinced that it would not be appropriate. Our job is to manage the school system as prudently as possible."

Board member Robert Warner added, "If that $850,000 (surplus) were to disappear, next year that would be $2 extra on the the tax rate and that would really be popular. We can't surprise people like that."

Another move by Watson to cut a proposed $100,000 capital reserve fund in half also was rejected. Board members and school officials argued that cutting the capital reserve would leave the district vulnerable to borrowing at high interest rates order to pay for urgent repairs.

Superintendent Carl Mangee said the fund would be used to pay for replacing doors and leaky windows at Tonawanda Senior High School at an estimated cost of $140,000. The state, he added, would reimburse the district 71 percent of the cost.

The district's financial manager, C. Douglas Whelan, also said he would recommend the district immediately begin paying back the interest on $1.1 million owed the state teachers' retirement pension fund. Instead of repaying the debt over 15 years, as the state recommended, the district would save nearly $700,000 in interest payments, he said.

In other business, the board approved the probationary appointment of Rita Pollinger as assistant principal at Tonawanda Senior High School effective July 1. Mrs. Pollinger, a 20-year resident of the city, is currently a foreign language teacher in the Frontier Central School District.

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