'Unpleasant' cuts ahead for school board

May 06, 1997


Staff Writer

The Washington County Board of Education will have to make "heart-rending cuts to key programs" unless the county increases funding of public education, school board President B. Marie Byers predicted Tuesday after a budget workshop.

Byers declined to specify which programs could be hurt because the budget process is not finished, but said the cuts would result in less specialized instruction in schools.

"It appears this may be the year that the budget cuts affect the day-to-day instruction in the classroom," Schools Superintendent Wayne F. Gersen said.


The school board has requested $53.3 million for its operating budget, up about $6 million from this year's budget of $47.2 million. The County Commissioners are proposing to fund it at $49.1 million.

That means the school board will have to make $4.2 million in cuts to meet wage increase commitments to employees, Gersen said.

"The cuts you're going to have to make are going to be unpleasant," Gersen told the school board. "The only way you can balance this budget is to get seriously into personnel."

Gersen and several school board members questioned the fairness of the draft $97.1 million county budget.

The school board's operating budget would increase 3.97 percent compared to an overall increase of 6.92 percent in the proposed county budget, Gersen said.

"We expect that our share of the budget would increase at the same rate as the rest of the budget," he said after the workshop.

If the board's operating budget increased at the same rate as the commissioners' operating budget, the school board would receive about $1.4 million more than proposed, Gersen said.

Under the county's draft budget, the county administrator, the state's attorney, the county attorney and several other departments would receive more money for their offices than they requested, Gersen said.

School board member Doris Nipps called it "unconscionable" that the county would increase its general government spending nearly 16 percent while increasing education funding only about 4 percent.

County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop said Tuesday that the budget is in draft form and "nothing's final."

Individual circumstances determine why proposed funding of some departments differs from the amount requested, Shoop said.

Asked why his own budget for the county administrator's office was proposed to increase $5,391 more than he had requested, to $177,037, Shoop said "I don't know off the top of my head. I'd have to check my notes."

His budget for this year is $142,181.

"If people in Washington County want to see education funded they are the ones who are going to have to communicate that to the Washington County Commissioners on May 14" at a budget hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. in Hagerstown Junior College's Kepler Theater, school board member Andrew S. Humphreys said.

The school board will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. Monday to discuss its budget, Byers said.

The Herald-Mail Articles