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Proposed budget with 3.5% tax increase gets 1st airing

After paring down a spending plan by $1.2 million, the City of Tonawanda School Board on Tuesday got its first look at the proposed $29.9 million budget for the 2007-08 school year that calls for a tax increase of 3.5 percent.

Peter H. Michaelsen, assistant school superintendent for finance, explained the budget proposal to the board, noting that the original plan for next year called for a 7 percent tax increase before administrators, in two rounds of cuts, stripped staffing positions and equipment and supply purchases.

"Candidly, to get this budget with these cuts is pretty good," Michaelsen said during his budget presentation. "This is a fair budget after two cuts."

The proposed budget continues a recent Tonawanda trend of staffing cuts. As of now, four teaching positions at the middle school will be eliminated next year if the proposed budget passes. Superintendent Barbara Peters said administrators are currently unsure which teachers will be laid off but are strongly suggesting that some teachers enter retirement or find a job at another district.

"We're trying to do [this] through attrition," Peters said. "That's our first preference, but if that doesn't work out, then [teachers] may be laid off."

However, one full-time position and two part-time jobs for administrative officials will be added to the spending plan. Peters noted that much of the funding for those positions will be covered by state aid and grants. Several other positions will be shuffled and reassigned throughout the district, costing the district an additional $63,000.

The district did receive good news from the state, as the approved budget increases Tonawanda's financial aid by 7.2 percent, bringing $986,000 in additional revenue.

"You never know what you're going to get from the state," Michaelsen said. "You have to wait until a budget passes" before estimating the proposed tax for district residents.

Parents and residents will have their opportunity to weigh in on the budget next week when the district hosts a public forum in Tonawanda High School at 7 p.m. next Tuesday. The board is scheduled to adopt the budget April 19.

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