Proposed schools budget has 10 percent hike

January 21, 1997


Staff Writer

Major investments in technology, employee salaries and school improvement initiatives account for more than half of the 10 percent budget increase sought in the proposed operating budget for fiscal year 1998, Washington County Schools Superintendent Wayne F. Gersen told the Board of Education Tuesday night.

Gersen's budget - totaling just over $106 million - would require the Washington County Commissioners to contribute $55.2 million next year, nearly $8 million more than the county's share this year, he said.

This year's operating budget was just over $96.4 million.

The additional money - including nearly $2.5 million earmarked for wage improvements - is necessary for the school system to meet school board, state and community expectations for performance, said Gersen, whose job is to provide the school board with a starting point for its budget deliberations.


In putting his budget together, Gersen said that instead of starting with an anticipated funding amount and then determining what that money would buy, he asked school administrators what staff and services they required to meet expectations in a timely manner.

"The budget, I'm sure, exceeds what the county will be able to fund, but it's what we need if we're going to move forward at the pace the community expects us to move forward," Gersen said.

System-wide improvements in technology are vital to adequately prepare students for life after graduation, said Gersen. He is asking that spending for technology be increased by almost $2.7 million.

Most of that - nearly $2.3 million - would go toward the next year's worth of improvements recommended in the school system's educational technology plan, he said.

Those improvements include:

  • replacing seven high school business labs;
  • updating computer equipment and software at several high schools;
  • installing local area networks at three middle schools;
  • purchasing computer equipment and software for two elementary schools.

Salary increases account for the next biggest increase, said Gersen. He said he placed just over $2.3 million for "salary/related costs" that would be distributed to the appropriate budget categories once negotiations for employee salaries are finished.

The money would cover any improvement in wages, including scheduled step increases, he said.

Gersen said school system employees have gone without wage increases for two years.

Gersen said a $185,000 increase for substitute teacher pay - amounting to a $10 per day pay increase - is needed to keep the school system competitive with its neighbors.

The budget also includes nearly $1.2 million for staff needed to maintain current staffing ratios and provide better services in the schools, Gersen said.

The funding would be used to add positions, including:

  • two one-year teaching positions that would free prospective administrators to assist their school principals in day-to-day management;
  • five half-time teaching positions at the Career Studies Center;
  • four high school teachers, three middle school teachers and one elementary school teacher needed because of enrollment increases;
  • one full-time social worker;
  • three computer technicians at the central office;
  • two contracted sign-language interpreters'
  • six instructional assistants.

Gersen said he designated $1.6 million for school improvement initiatives aimed mainly at lowering the high school dropout rate and improving reading and math skills at the elementary level to meet Maryland School Performance Assessment Program criteria.

Public budget hearings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 4 in the board's central office auditorium and 7 p.m. March 4 at the Western Heights Middle School auditorium.

The school board will present its final budget proposal to the County Commissioners at 7 p.m. March 25 at the Kepler Auditorium at Hagerstown Junior College.

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