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Buffalo School District wins appeal on wage freeze

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WBFO News file photo
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Buffalo Schools Superintendent James Williams

By Eileen Buckley

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-960286.mp3

Buffalo, NY – The State's highest court has ruled in favor of the City of Buffalo in its appeal against the city wage freeze.

The New York State Court of Appeals ruling means the City and school district will not have to pay salary steps employees lost during the wage freeze. That freeze was in place from 2004 to 2007, imposed by the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority.

The Court of Appeals reversed an earlier ruling on the three-year wage freeze for police, fire and school administrators.

While the school district and control board are applauding the victory, Buffalo Teachers Federal president Phil Rumore is outraged. He calls the decision gut wrenching and a body blow for teachers.

"It's gut wrenching. It's a body blow. I mean we've had two years of unanimous lower court decisions, and to do something like this to Buffalo Teachers is unconscionable," said Rumore.

Buffalo Schools Superintendent James A. Williams issued the following statement:

"Although it is our belief that this was a final decision, we have been informed that the plaintiffs may continue to litigate this matter. For this and other reasons, the District must continue to budget conservatively to protect the classroom, not only next year, but for years to come.

While this victory is positive for the District, it in no way solves the structural budgetary issues this District continues to face on an annual basis. Prior to this decision, the District's projected budget deficit may have necessitated staff reductions of almost 500 full time positions. This ruling may reduce the need for reductions; however, we cannot state that the need for any staff reductions has been eliminated.

In addition, several of our largest unions have been without a contract since 2004. It is the District's desire to work with its employees to give them much deserved wage increases. We recognize the hard work they do every day. We are hopeful to negotiate innovative collective bargaining agreements that reward efficiency and excellent employee performance, and take into account the economic realities under which we must operate. But most importantly, the District looks forward to working with everyone to focus on our most essential task -- educating Buffalo's children.

I thank the Buffalo Board of Education, Mayor Byron Brown and the City of Buffalo, the Buffalo Control Board, the business community, and the District legal team and staff, for their support and patience in this matter."