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Buffalo School Board battles over budget priorities

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

The Buffalo School Board couldn't come to a budget agreement Wednesday evening. That decision will be delayed until next week, at the earliest.

The dispute is over a bunch of issues from whether to limit spending to revenue, as well as whether to keep adding staff and how to balance spending in the buildings. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

"There's a disparity of treatment in this district because you should not be allowing music in one school if you can't allow it in another," said Board Member Sharon Belton Cottman.

"The way the budget is based, it's not fair. You're penalizing the children with the most needs and you are reducing the amount of resources that they have in their building because they have to buy teachers and supplement them."

Under school-based budgeting, each school gets a little extra money to be spent on what the school decides is needed in that building. It's often controversial. District CFO Geoff Pritchard says if board members don't want to use more reserves, the question becomes, what will be cut?

"We're really basically saying, 'How much do we want to spend in this budget?' Do we want it to be $855 million or do you want it to be $843 [million]? Those are really the two numbers that we have. We can either use fund balance or we cannot," Pritchard said.

The proposed budget starts implementing Superintendent Kriner Cash's educational bargain and adds teachers to create smaller classes for the youngest kids, from pre-K to third grade to help them reach basic literacy levels.

Board Member Carl Paladino said he won't vote for any budget that spends more than is coming in, potentially cutting around $11 million from planned spending.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.