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SCHOOL BOARD SEEKS $339 MILLION BUDGET REQUEST TO MAYOR UP 14.6 PERCENT

The Board of Education voted 6-3 Wednesday to forward a $339 million budget request -- an increase of 14.6 percent -- to Mayor Griffin.

The request, recommended by acting Superintendent Albert Thompson, includes $5 million to work toward desegregation by hiring 25 teachers to reduce class size; 39 to teach art, music and gym in the primary grades; additional guidance counselors, and enough librarians to provide library service in every school for most of every day.

It would continue this year's slashed programs at least at their current level and also would restore basic -- but not all -- summer school programs.

While the request seeks $47.3 million from the city, 80 percent of the total would come from the state. Currently, both the city tax rate and the state appropriation are uncertain.

Thompson had submitted two budgets -- a maximum and a minimum -- seeking $28.7 million to $42.3 million more for city public schools in 1990-1991. The board approved the maximum.

Yet even the higher budget would not restore all the programs cut by the new School Board since July 1, he had said.

The budget comes at a time when the city faces a $30 million deficit next year and just days after Gov. Cuomo presented his state budget calling for no additional local aid to Buffalo.

The split vote underlined divisions on the board and resulted in dissenting votes by board members Mozella E. Richardson of the Central District, Dr. Oscar Smukler of the North District and Victor Turchiarelli of the West District. Smukler said the request still shortchanges children on the basics of education.

Turchiarelli questioned the budget's accounting procedures and format and called for a budget broken down by items.

"I do not understand it nor would the people of my district understand this spending plan," he said. "I will not anoint this wish list and play lottery at the expense of our children's education."

Three members who voted for the Thompson plan said they "have questions" about some of the budget items and will try to have them replaced when the appropriation is final in June. They are John C. Doyle, at large member; James W. Comerford Jr., Park District, and Frank J. Jager, East District.

Board President David B. Kelly; Judith P. Fisher, at large member, and Bettye Blackman, Ferry District, also voted for the plan.

Speeches by those in the audience who favored more funding and by a city worker who favored less set off an exchange involving Mrs. Blackman, Doyle and Comerford.

The exchange began when Mrs. Blackman objected to remarks by George Cotroneo, a city budget analyst, who said the city is pinched for money.

"I rather resent a city administrator coming to us," Mrs. Blackman said. "I really think it is not their place."

Doyle's observations on the budget focused on residents wanting "money going to the right place."

The remark resulted in an outburst of laughter from parents critical of the recent appointments of Doyle's campaign manager, Brian Hayden, to director of building safety at a salary of $45,815 a year, and of Comerford's business associate, James M. Kane, to a $64,546-a-year job as executive assistant to the superintendent.

During the proceedings, Comerford referred to the people who laughed aloud as "the mob."

"Your intolerance is incredible," he said. "I feel everyone should have a chance to say what they feel and not be mocked at."

Comerford told Mrs. Blackman the board is not a closed forum where a city employee cannot speak. Mrs. Blackman addressed her answer to the parents reproved by Comerford.

"I do not feel you are a mob," she said. "I resent a city administrator from the city Administration and Finance Department coming to the Board of Education before we consider a proposed budget and trying to tell us how to vote."

Doyle, saying that Cotroneo is also a taxpayer, responded that under state law, the board "allows" members of the audience to speak, but that they do not have a right. He asked Kelly to secure a statement from the corporation counsel's office on how the board should conduct the portion of its program when it allows three-minute talks from the public.

Mrs. Fisher attempted unsuccessfully to double the library appropriation.

A motion by Smukler to add $6.7 million in programs also failed.

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