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School Board removes controversial cosmetic surgery rider from budget

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Buffalo has a new school budget which is likely to bring another lawsuit from the Buffalo Teachers Federation.

In putting the spending plan together, the outgoing board majority took $5 million from a fund to pay for the controversial cosmetic surgery rider and put it in a reserve. While the union maintains the move is illegal, the majority calls the spending plan a down payment on the educational bargain.

For Superintendent Kriner Cash, the budget will allow him to trim class sizes in the early grades.

The change, Cash says, will have "a big impact for these priority schools which have been stressed for a long time with unacceptably high class sizes in a struggling school." To reduce the class size, the district needs to hire 73 new teachers.

While the spending plan is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, it faces an uncertain future. BTF President Phil Rumore has indicated that a lawsuit is likely. Though she's not part of the board's majority bloc, Board Member  Sharon Belton Cottman did vote in favor of the plan in what she says is a parliamentary maneuver.
"I am going to vote with the majority so that I can bring it back once the new board is in place so that we can reverse this."

That new majority will be in place as of July 1. Until then, supporters argue the controversial plan will make a difference in a district in desperate need of change.

"The taxpayers in Buffalo are entitled to have an education system that works," said Board Member Carl Paladino.

"We're not going to restore the city until we have an education system that works, that invites young people to raise their families back in the city again. We don't have that right now. They can't afford private schools. They want to send their kids to a public school so they stay out in the suburbs. That's a terrible statement but that's the truth."

The budget is officially listed at $854 million, though total spending will bump past a billion once federal grants are added in over the school year.

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.