Should Plastic Surgery Insurance Continue for Buffalo Teachers?

February 21, 2012 Updated Feb 21, 2012 at 7:46 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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February 21, 2012 Updated Feb 21, 2012 at 7:46 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) -Should taxpayers be forced to shell out millions for plastic surgery performed on Buffalo teachers? That question is being reevaluated. Last year, plastic surgery operations cost the Buffalo Public School District $5.9 million. About 17,000 current and retired district employees along with their spouses and families are covered under the rider. Administrators say a select few are costing the district millions. The cosmetic rider has been in place since the 1970's, according to district officials.

"We do have what we call high cost users," said Buffalo Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Barbara Smith. "There's about 60 that are spending over 2 million dollars. They're spending over 30,000 dollars each."

With the district facing a $43 million deficit, administrators say benefits like plastic surgery are simply unsustainable.

"When this was done many years ago, we were at a very different political and financial environment," said Buffalo School Board President Louis Petrucci.

The Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore says he is willing to end the perk pending negotiations and if the district and the union can agree upon a new contract. Buffalo teachers have been working without a contract since 2004.

"We've told them at the beginning of negotiations 8 or 9 years ago we're more than happy to give it up with negotiations," said Rumore.

Both sides are working with a mediator to set a date in March to resume negotiations.