During American Education Week, area residents learned an important lesson regarding high property taxes.
This week, the Empire Center for New York State Policy released thousands of payroll records for school districts on its www.seethrough-ny.net web site. For most regions - including Western New York - the cost of paying teacher salaries continues to increase despite declining enrollments, populations and industry.
And while the survey found the average teacher pay in Western New York to be in the $45,000 range, many of our districts have a number of teachers and administrators earning more than $70,000 annually.
Two weeks ago, the space took issue with the city of Dunkirk ignoring the "elephant in the budget," which is the total payroll of its work force.
Overall, the total compensation of Dunkirk workers is more than $12 million and its average salary tops $61,000.
Schools are more open about salaries and benefits in the budget preparation. They tell residents during the annual process that between 70 percent and 80 percent of its budget is the cost of personnel
We still have not heard that in the city of Dunkirk as council members chisel away at the leftover crumbs while raising taxes and water rates.
In the schools, we broke down three components through the www.seethroughny.net site - the number of teachers in each district earning more than $70,000; what percentage of district staff that makes up and total compensation for the district staff.
Here are the results:
Brocton - 26, 19.5 percent, $6.9 million.
Cassadaga Valley - 44, 19 percent, $13.9 million.
Dunkirk - 69, 13.8 percent, $28.6 million.
Forestville - 19, 13.2 percent, $7.1 million.
Fredonia - 55, 17.6 percent, $18.3 million.
Gowanda - 49, 14.4 percent, 18.3 million.
Pine Valley - 11, 5.7 percent, $19.6 million.
Ripley - nine, 9.7 percent, $4.7 million.
Silver Creek, 29, 11.5 percent, $13.4 million.
Westfield - 42, 22 percent, $10.6 million.
Schools have made tough decisions in past years in regard to reducing staff. However, when staff is reduced, those at the bottom - earning the least - are the first to go while those with the highest salaries are untouchable. Unions are no help to those new members in the process as they fight for the pay increases for those at the top of the wage scale, while those at the bottom are the sacrificial lambs.
Unfortunately, that is all too often an unfriendly education for those who are new hires in the teaching profession.
Our largest edition of the year is coming next week
On Thanksgiving Day, our newspaper will be filled with some 20 inserts to help shoppers on their evening holiday dash or Black Friday trek for holiday gifts.
As of today, there are 39 shopping days until Christmas.
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.