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Teachers Union Presents Counter Offer

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The Buffalo Teachers Federation and city school district remain far apart on a new contract. But Friday, the teachers union was expected to present a counter offer.

BTF President Phil Rumore says there is little trust in negotiating with the Board of Education. Earlier this week, the union rejected the school board's offer saying it was an "insult" to teachers. Rumore would not be specific on what the union's counter offer will include. But he did say they will be asking for pay increases.

"Our proposals will be our priority. We will be talking about class size, music and physical education, in addition to reducing the caseloads for counselors, social workers and school psychologists," Rumore said. "We will also be looking for salary increases."

"We made it clear to them we have no new money," Schools Superintendent James Williams said. "Whatever we do, we have to restructure what we are doing."

Williams says without changes to health care the district will be forced to lay off more than 200 employees. Initially, the district asked the union to accept a single health insurance provider to save about $12 million. Rumore says they would agreed to it. But then the contract offer asked teachers to pay 20 percent of their health care. Rumore says that's unacceptable.

However, Williams says the teachers contract is one of the richest in the US. Rumore says he's wrong.

"I would say take a look at his own contract. It's not true," Rumore said. "Buffalo teachers are probably the only teachers I know of that have to wait 27 years to get to their maximum salary. For most other teachers, it is 15 years. Therefore, our teachers are loosing tens of thousands of dollars."

But Williams doesn't appear to be backing down. He says if things don't change by July 30th, the layoff notices will go out.

"By contract, we have to notify our teachers, those that will be laid off 30 days prior to the opening of school," Williams said.