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School board will kick in more for crossing guards

| Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2003, 12:00 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools board voted Tuesday night to help the city to pay for providing school crossing guard services through the end of the school year.

The sharply divided board, which previously agreed to pay $1.7 million to keep the guards in place through Dec. 31, voted to pay an additional $1.7 million to help cover salaries and benefits for the 190 guards and two supervisors through the end of June.

It costs the financially strapped city some $4.9 million a year to pay for the guards, who earn $60.61 for a six-hour work day and receive full health-care benefits.

Board members Darlene Harris, Jean Fink, Theresa Colaizzi, Jean Wood and Floyd McCrea voted in favor of the measure. Mark Brentley Sr., Alex Matthews, Bill Isler and Randall Taylor voted against it.

Some of those who voted against the measure accused Harris, the outgoing school board president, of political grandstanding on the issue.

Harris, who lost her bid for re-election to newcomer Patrick Dowd, retorted that her opponents were trying to create a circus atmosphere while her days in office draw to a close.

The money for the guards will be included in the final school budget, which is scheduled for a vote Dec. 17.

Also last night, the board voted not to give city homeowners a $10,000 property tax break.

The board voted 5-4 to reject a proposal from Harris to join the city and Allegheny County in the homestead exemption program, which exempts homeowners from property taxes on the first $10,000 assessed value of their homes.

Brentley, Isler, Matthews, Taylor and Wood voted against the Harris proposal. Colaizzi, Fink and McCrea joined Harris in voting for the measure.

Harris said she proposed the measure to pare a projected $96 million budget surplus and return the money to taxpayers, who saw a property tax increase in 2001.

She said the move would have saved homeowners an additional $140 a year and cost the district about $6 million a year.

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