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Sharpen those pencils

In the coming weeks School Board and City Council members will be absorbing Superintendent Milton R. Liverman’s proposed $139 million operating budget and $9 million supplemental proposal. The proposal represents a $14 million increase over the current year, meaning the local contribution will be upped by $6 million, or about $300 for every household in the city.

Fuel costs for the schools’ fleet of 200 buses is a significant part of the increase, as are health insurance and life insurance. But the biggest consumer is the proposed average 5 percent pay raise for employees.

That’s going to be tough one. The other expenses are not negotiable. The pay raises are.

While we value teachers and want to see them paid comparable with their colleagues in neighboring cities, we feel the same about police officers and firefighters. If officials fully fund the proposal, they need to be prepared to provide the same pay raises to all city employees, who will rightly expect it.

That, coupled with a continued desire for tax-rate relief from soaring real estate assessments n and with four council members up for re-election — there’s a good chance they could get it, and it will force officials to make sure their pencils are sharp.