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Crossing Guards' Fate Slated for Debate

As the city budget crisis simmered in last week's political heat, Mayor Tom Murphy and city council President Gene Ricciardi looked to the city school board to provide an escape valve (see News Briefs: "& And Crossing Signals," Aug. 13). At the board's Aug. 20 meeting, they asked school directors to pick up the cost of the city's crossing guards, one of the most politically unpopular of the city's recent layoffs.

City officials asked the board to cover the guards' wages only for the rest of 2003, which amounts to nearly $1.7 million; the city is banking on getting help from Harrisburg in time for the 2004 budget, Deputy Mayor Tom Cox told the board.

But board member Jean Wood pointed out that the schools' budget situation is uncertain, too: The legislature recessed this month without approving the state's education annual subsidy, leaving Pittsburgh and the rest of the state's school districts to speculate about their own finances.

After fretting about their sudden political predicament -- "If we can't do this, does that make us the bad guys?" asked board member Mark Brentley -- they directed Superintendent John Thompson, board President Darlene Harris and district Solicitor Ira Weiss to come up with a proposal that they will vote on at their meeting Aug. 27.

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