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SCHOOL BUDGET ADDS TEACHERS, COMPUTERS

A proposed $30 million spending increase for Buffalo Public Schools includes $6.5 million for 130 new teachers, $1.4 million for classroom computer equipment and textbooks and $1.8 million in transportation enhancements for pupils, an executive assistant to Superintendent James Harris said today.

That spending outline by James M. Kane contradicts statements from four Buffalo Public Schools officials Friday that the proposed 6.8 percent spending increase would simply carry forward existing programs and result in no new classroom initiatives.

Andy Maddigan, the district spokesman who arranged Friday's briefing, said that the participants -- including him -- were not fully aware of the financial details of the budget and that financial officials more familiar with the plan were not available.

"It was a matter of circumstance," he said.

Kane said today that the spending proposal for 130 new teachers includes 68 special-education teachers. Some of them were hired this school year, while others will begin in September, he said.

Another main budget component is a $10.3 million increase in fringe benefits, including health insurance rates, and $5 million in termination pay for retiring teachers.

The district hopes to whittle down the health insurance increases by realizing savings in ongoing negotiations with three unions representing school employees, Kane said.

Other increases include $4.3 million in debt service; $2 million for incremental teacher pay raises; $1 million in raises for administrators; and $900,000 in utility costs.

Kane said classroom instruction will directly benefit from the new teachers, the computer equipment and textbooks and the transportation and the debt service payments, which will pay for improved facilities.

At a meeting with a reporter Friday, school officials repeatedly said the proposed budget increase would simply maintain existing programs and result in no new classroom programs.

The proposed budget drew criticism from Mayor Masiello and two state legislators.

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