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BOARD BURNS MIDNIGHT OIL TO ADOPT $21.4 MILLION SCHOOL BUDGET

In a marathon session ending early this morning, the Tonawanda City School Board adopted a 1998-99 budget of $21,478,585 and approved two propositions for the May 19 district election.

The board voted, 5-1, to approve the budget, with Jackie Smilinich dissenting, after a lengthy disagreement on how much should be cut from an earlier $21,518,185 plan and where the cuts should be made. Trustee Joseph Miosi was absent.

Mrs. Smilinich was seeking at least a $100,000 reduction in the budget, but trustees settled on directing administrators to cut $40,000 from the plan at their own discretion.

School officials did not provide a projected tax increase, although the earlier proposal was estimated at about 2 percent.

Proposition 2 calls for a $60,000 capital improvement plan to pay for ceiling repairs and new lighting at the Highland pool. The pool has been out of service since last fall due to steam leaks.

Proposition 3 provides for spending up to $100,000 on new instructional and maintenance equipment.

Trustees reduced that amount from $125,000 after making several adjustments, including a transfer of $10,400 to the general fund budget.

C. Douglas Whelan, assistant superintendent for business and finance, said the district will be eligible for more than 60 percent aid if the equipment is purchased through the Board of Cooperative Educational Services portion of the budget.

Whelan told trustees he can make a $40,000 reduction in the budget, but the district will have to do without some repairs. He said the schools will also have less money left over next June.

The board argued for more than five hours before deciding to let school officials decide how to cut the budget. At one point, trustees tabled the plan but were forced to take the budget off the table when they couldn't agree on a day to meet for further deliberations.

District Clerk Nancy Harder said the legal notice for the trustee election and budget vote has to be advertised by April 7.

Superintendent Diana D. Greene called the plan "a fiscally responsible budget" that improves the district's capacity to meet the new Regents mandates. She said the increases over last year's spending include money for new textbooks, software, computers at the high school and computer desks.

The Tonawanda schools are operating this year under a $21.1 million contingency budget after voters twice rejected spending plans in their first opportunity to vote on a small-city school budget.

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