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23 non-instructional workers likely to lose jobs in Falls School Board OK expected tonight

The Niagara Falls School Board is expected to approve the layoffs of 23 non-instructional employees tonight because of an unanticipated 45 percent increase in the cost of health insurance for some district workers.

School Superintendent Carmen A. Granto said the layoffs will take effect Feb. 2.

Granto said he is requesting them because health care costs for members of Local 872, Civil Service Employees Association, jumped by $840,000 over the past several months.

"That means the union and the district have to split the increase and come up with $420,000 each," Granto said. "The only way we could do that at this time of year was to lay people off."

Granto said he has no choice but to recommend the action because "there was nothing else we could do" in a district already operating on a very tight budget.

District Human Services Director Philip Mohr said the following positions will go: eight cleaners, six general repairmen, three support clerks, two nurses, two senior monitors, a secretary and a storekeeper. He said a part-time physical education teacher's post will be cut.

Members of the union have BlueCross BlueShield coverage through the Frank Accardo Insurance Agency.

District officials and the union have worked without success during the past couple of months to find ways to pare down the costs. Union officials worked with the Accardo Agency and checked with other health insurance programs, but to no avail, Granto said.

"They went to other companies to see if anything could be done, but those quotes came in even higher," the superintendent said.

With the layoffs, Granto said, "We'd be able to pay the district's share" and maintain coverage through July 1.

"Their health insurance jumped so much because they had extraordinarily high usage this year," Granto said. "A lot of active employees and retired employees [who are also covered] had operations and serious illnesses. It was all legitimate, but a lot of things happened all at once. They had a lot of claims, and we had to pay a lot more as a result."

The impact will extend into the 2007-08 school year, Granto said.

"We were facing a $6.5 million gap between expenses and revenues for next year. This will push that up to over $7.4 million" for the entire district budget, Granto said.

The board expects to save $3.4 million next year by closing three schools: Niagara Middle and 60th Street and 66th Street elementary schools.

The board will vote on that proposal as well tonight during a meeting that starts at 5:30 in the high school amphitheater, 4455 Porter Road.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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