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School District Projects $40 Million Shortfall

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The Buffalo Schools Superintendent warns that Governor Pataki's proposed state budget could mean another shortfall for the district.

Just as the Buffalo school district completed a final round of layoffs to close a $28 million dollar deficit, Superintendent Marion Canedo says Pataki's proposed spending plan means "serious" trouble for the district. Canedo said they could face a shortfall possibly as high as $40 million dollars.

The governor's budget calls for the same level of funding as last year. Canedo says knowing these numbers now will help the school board plan for the next school year in a very different way, but she wouldn't go as far as saying if that would mean more layoffs.

"To us staying the same is a cut because costs have escalated on health care, and so forth," she said. "But this is very serious. We're just taking a deep breath after completing the recent layoffs, and now we have to regroup again. We need to look at what other creative possibilities there are."

Canedo reported to the board that the final staffing reductions stand at 303, down from the original 557. Total teacher layoffs are now at 195. But Canedo says some laid off teachers were able to return to the classrooms as substitutes and about ten teachers were allowed to return as teacher aides.

"Once you take a substitute position, or any other position filling-in, you're also giving up your unemployment benefits, so that's real dedication," she explained.

Canedo and board members are planning to lobby hard for additional dollars. Canedo says they will be meeting with the Western New York legislative delegation next, and a large lobbying day is planned in Albany on March 4th.