The Board of Education must ask Mayor Griffin for more money to avoid cuts beyond the scaled-back level of the past year, two board members and the teachers union president said Thursday.
Board President David B. Kelly, At-Large Member Judith P. Fisher and Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore each said Thursday that the money currently available is impossibly tight and they must look to the mayor for more.
After the board that assumed office last July 1 made large cuts in staff and programs, Griffin agreed to supply $3.5 million more for the just-completed school year.
Rumore was critical of Common Council members who failed to support an additional appropriation earlier this month. "It could turn out that the mayor looks more pro-education than the Common Council," he said.
The latest proposal by Schools Superintendent Albert Thompson to keep spending within city and state appropriations is $37 million less than the budget the board requested of the city in late January.
The spending plan reflects the total money available to the schools, which was decided early this month when city and state legislators voted on next year's appropriations.
For a start, the Thompson plan cuts a funding reserve for teacher-contract settlements by $2.1 million and eliminates 75 high school teachers.
"What the board is going to have to do is ask for a supplemental appropriation," said Rumore, head of the 3,600-member teachers union. The union currently is seeking a 24 percent wage hike and other improvements.
Officials who claim to be close to Griffin believe that he will appropriate more money. Kelly, who said he has heard that as well, noted that although the board is in a fiscal crisis, after years of such claims it is difficult to get the message across.
"The trouble is when you cry wolf every day of your life, nobody believes you," Kelly said. "You're talking about a dramatic difference between request and appropriation -- more dramatic than last year. We have to have a balanced budget, and that budget is going to have an impact on the level of services throughout the district."
Mrs. Fisher said that even with a decline in high school enrollment, eliminating 75 teachers will drive children into private and parochial schools.
"I think we are making devastating cuts in the system," she said. "We're already losing too many kids to the street as dropouts. I find it hard to believe it won't have an impact on the desegregation program."
Rumore noted last month -- when he and Thompson lobbied in Albany for more state aid -- that Thompson indicated $25 million more from the state would be enough. State appropriations were increased by $23 million.
"I just question what's going on," said Rumore, who added that $18 million of the $23 million will come from changes that reduce payments to the teachers retirement system.
Rumore said Buffalo teachers are among the lowest paid in Erie County and are unwilling to bear the brunt of additional cuts.
"Any reduction in the amount set aside for union settlements is like putting salt in a wound," he said. "The morale of teachers is the worst I have seen since 1976."
In 1976 the teachers went on strike. Their current contract runs out this weekend, and a state-appointed impasse panel has entered negotiations.
Rumore, who noted that he had not yet seen Thompson's new decisions on allocations, said the teachers union will offer its own spending plan.