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Buffalo School Board wants city to share profit from building sales

Some of the least used of the Buffalo Public Schools’ buildings may soon be closed, and School Board members want the city government to give the school system some of any profit it gets for selling them.

School district officials have presented a proposal that would a number of buildings as a means of eliminating a $50 million budget deficit for the 2014-2015 school year. Closing the buildings would save about $3 million, largely in maintenance costs.

But since the School District does not own the buildings – the city does – the district would not get any of the profit if they were sold. Board members now want the city to agree to split the revenue from any sales.

Barbara J. Smith, district’s chief financial officer, said that request is reasonable since the district has paid the costs of maintaining the buildings over the years.

“I think when you look at the building sales, that is more than a reasonable request,” Smith said.

Board members asked the district’s administration Wednesday to consult with legal counsel for advice on how to pursue the issue.

The district had already planned to close the buildings that house Schools 11, 40 and 44, as well as Middle Early College. The district is now proposing to close five other buildings that house the parent center, the adult education offices and its information technology department.

The idea comes as the district begins its budget-making process for the 2014-2015 school year.

School district officials met over the weekend to set their priorities going into the budget process.

“We know there are going to have to be some tough decisions made during this budget process,” said Superintendent Pamela C. Brown. “It’s important for us to know what our priorities are and what stands the best chance of getting us to meet the goals and objectives we set.”

With a nearly $50 million budget deficit projected for the next school year, Buffalo Public Schools leaders are starting to look for ways to scale back their spending, including options that could affect school operations or employee benefits.

School district officials have been projecting a large budget gap for the 2014-2015 school year, and that estimate grew this past week when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo released a state budget that did not include as big an aid increase as the Buffalo school administrators had hoped for.

And that deficit does not include expenses for summer school, a medical high school nor an after-school program in partnership with Say Yes Buffalo that could cost $14 million.