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Teacher Associates Union chief cites issue of tax hike rather than layoffs

Some residents would be willing to pay a bit more in school taxes in order to prevent the elimination of about 76 positions in the city school district's budget for next year, according to the head of the union representing classroom associates.

Michele A. Brocious, president of Local 872, Teacher Associates Union, told School Board members: "Not speaking as an employee, but just as a taxpayer, some of the people I have talked with would prefer a small tax increase instead of these job eliminations."

Her union represents about 190 school employees, most of whom work part time as lunchroom aides, senior school monitors and associates in classrooms, special education, child care, school libraries and physical education.

The proposed budget for the 2012-13 school year calls for the elimination of 63 part-time positions and seven full-time positions among members of the associates' union, school cleaners and others. It also calls for the elimination of six teaching positions.

Some of the eliminations would be achieved through attrition.

Except for School Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco and Business Services Administrator Timothy J. Hyland, Brocious was the only speaker at Thursday's budget hearing in Niagara Falls High School.

Bianco said the proposed budget of $122.4 million would maintain all school programs and services despite the planned reductions in staff. "It was an extremely difficult process to develop this budget," Bianco said, "but it is a responsible budget to the taxpayers and a respectful budget to the students."

Hyland said, "It is a source of pride for this School Board that the local tax levy will remain unchanged at about $25 million for the 19th consecutive year." The tax rate will remain unchanged at $18.896 for each $1,000 of assessment.

"If our tax levy had kept up with the rate of inflation, it would be 44 percent higher," Hyland said. He explained that the district would save $3 million next year in the cost of health insurance for employees and would achieve additional savings through the consolidation of buildings, energy efficiency and streamlined operations.

Next year's proposed budget of $122.4 million is nearly $1.4 million more than this year's planned spending of $121 million.

Residents will vote on the budget and on filling one seat on the nine-member School Board from noon to 9 p.m. May 15 at general election polling places throughout the city.