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BOARD SPLITS ALONG PARTY LINES OVER BUDGET MODIFICATIONS

The Tonawanda Town Board's special meeting to vote on modifications to the tentative $74.2 million 2005 budget produced a visible partisan divide by board members Thursday evening.

The three Democrats voted against four of the five changes that totaled $21,500 in revenue, reducing the average homeowner's tax bill by 48 cents and lowering the tax levy by 0.06 percent.

The measures still passed, with the four Republicans approving all of the modifications, which stemmed from corrections to line items from the Youth, Parks and Recreation Department.

"I believe any reduction is certainly worth extending to the residents," Supervisor Ronald H. Moline, who is a Republican, said after the meeting.

But Democratic Councilman John J. Flynn said the meeting was a "political move" because four of the five modifications were necessary because of oversights or accounting errors.

For example, he said, putting $1,500 in a line item that should have been zero, and vice versa for another line item. The Democrats voted in favor of one of the changes -- $16,500 in revenue from the T-ball and sporting machine fees. Earlier in the month, they voted against holding Thursday's special session.

Flynn said the changes could have been made without having a public meeting, which he said gave the illusion to residents that the revenues were new money instead of funds that were always there but accidentally left out.

"It's nothing more than political," he said.

Republican Councilman Joseph M. Shiah said he resented Flynn's charges and asserted that "it's (Flynn) and his two buddies who are making politics out of this. It's ridiculous. If we hadn't made these changes, our taxes would reflect the wrong amount."

Democratic Councilman Daniel J. Crangle said he had misgivings about the meeting because the Town Board has never in the past handled such budget modifications by calling special meetings.

In the past, Moline said, budget modifications have been tackled in work sessions. But this year, he said, the special meeting was called as a way to "facilitate a thorough review of the budget."

And under state law, Moline said, changes have to be approved by the Town Board. He added that board members were given an opportunity to make suggestions or changes and they didn't.

A budget hearing is scheduled for 8 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building, 2919 Delaware Ave., Kenmore.

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com

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