BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A new report from a conservative non-profit says Buffalo spent nearly $3 million last fiscal year on cosmetic procedures for district employees who receive the free coverage.
The so-called cosmetic rider has drawn national media attention in the past.
The Education Action Group (EAG) started investigating the Buffalo School District earlier this year and filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the district. It showed Buffalo "spent $2,728,201 on cosmetic procedures for members of the Buffalo Teachers Federation for the period of June 2011-July 2012."
The $2.7 million figure is a drastic decline from previous years. In 2009, cosmetic costs skyrocketed to nearly $9 million. In 2010 it dropped to $5.9 million. And the latest figure was a further 54% drop.
Kyle Olson, founder of EAG, said that's still way too much to be spending on things like tummy tucks and Botox.
"You've got a school system that in my judgment has its priorities out of wack," Olson said.
He called on the union to give up the cosmetic coverage.
Reached by phone, BTF President Phil Rumore told 2 On Your Side this is "old news" and that the rider will not be included in a new contract; however, the union and district have been without a contract for nearly a decade.
"We're more than willing to part with this," Rumore said.
Olson said the union shouldn't wait for a new contract to, as he put it, "do what is right" and forego the cosmetic coverage.
"To me, it would be a good faith effort (to give up the rider)," Olson said. "It would be a good step forward to showing the community that the union is concerned about the welfare of children."
However, doing so would take away a critical piece of leverage for the union, whose members say they are among the lowest paid in the region and state.
EAG also examined the district's spending on travel and found it spent $164,764.35, mostly on hotels and airfare. However, Olson was critical of expenses listed as limousine and chauffeur services.
2 On Your Side first learned of this report late Tuesday afternoon, and by the time we contacted the school district, no one was available for comment. We will continue to follow this story in the coming days.