Buffalo Board of Education members declined Wednesday to act on leases proposed by administrators to rent space on the Statler Towers mezzanine and in Northwest Buffalo Community Center, 155 Lawn Ave., which is the former School 79.
Board members balked at a proposed agreement to house the food-services department in the Statler Towers space, and questioned why the staff proposed to pay rent in the former School 79.
The food services move is proposed to make additional space available in City Hall for other administrative operations.
At-large Member David B. Kelly called the Statler contract "a landlord's lease." Board President Oscar Smukler said anyone who signed it "would be out of his cotton-pickin' mind."
Smukler said it would force the board to pay the landlord to repair broken pipes or for accidents to persons within the building.
"Why in heaven's name would we want to assume that kind of liability?" he asked. "I don't know how anyone could recommend that we sign a lease such as this."
Smukler said the proposed lease would also allow the landlord -- if he could get a better price -- to force the board to move on 20 days notice. The board president also questioned the the choice of location in the Statler Towers.
"YOU CAN pick up the paper day after day and see a tremendous amount of space in this immediate vicinity," he said.
Deputy Superintendent Albert Thompson recommended the agreement for five years, at $25,000 per year with a 5 percent escalator. He said the cost could be charged to food services. That department, because of federal reimbursement for children's lunches, has a $4 million surplus.
Kelly said he learned from a telephone installer that the schools staff is already pressuring for installation of the phone system in the mezzanine space.
"It's really unfortunate when this sort of thing happens when the board hasn't approved anything yet," Kelly said
But Thompson claimed the space would not remain available if the board did not act.
"If we're delayed, we'll start looking for a space," the deputy superintendent said. "If you disapprove the lease, we will forget all about it."
Central District Member Mozella Richardson, chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, also expressed doubts, and the staff withdrew the lease proposal from the agenda.
THE OTHER controversial lease, calling for $31,764 in rents at the former school on Lawn Avenue, was challenged by West District Member JoAnne I. Skorka.
Associate Superintendent Donald E. Gory proposed the lease for space to house a remedial education program , 10 classrooms, four lavatories and two conference rooms.
"This past year there was a ruling that we do not pay rent to the city community centers," Mrs. Skorka recalled. "We do not pay for space. . . ."
Before the board's business meeting, leaders of white- and blue-collar unions protested that the board has refused for months to give them new contracts or raises.
"You gave 7 percent to the teachers and 7 percent to the administrators," said Joan Friend, vice president of the 500-member Professional, Clerical and Technical Employees Union. "I want 7 percent, too. We've been down here 36 times. You always want to rip everything out of our contract."
Ms. Friend asked the board to direct board negotiator Joseph Carney to make an offer.
Christine Klumpp, union treasurer, spoke for the union's 100 typists, suggesting that because they are women they are paid less than men. The average typist nets $11,795, after deductions of costs associated with her job, and supports dependents, Ms. Klumpp said. Leaders of the clerical union said their contract expired 18 months ago.
Arthur Hodges, Local 409, Buffalo School Engineers, said a delay in a new contract prevents the engineers from negotiating with their own employees, custodians and other school workers who belong to Local 71.