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School board budget approved

June 10, 1997

By VANDANA SINHA

Staff Writer

After months of struggling to balance existing funds and school needs, the Washington County Board of Education Tuesday night finalized its 1997-1998 budget, preserving the Fairview Outdoor School in Clear Spring and new employee positions.

During their business meeting, school board members unanimously approved most of the $99.9 million draft operating budget that staff members had presented at Monday's work session.

The $50.2 million in local funding, which is still about $3.1 million short of what the school board had requested for its proposed $104 million budget, allowed board members to allot $225,000 for the Outdoor School, $300,000 for six new buses, $226,000 for miscellaneous equipment and $131,532 for additional personnel.

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Those items, among others, were either eliminated from the budget or designated solely as one-time expenses with funding that will terminate after one year.

Staff members added them to the final operating budget because the Washington County Commissioners placed more than $1.1 million for long-term initiatives back in the operating budget from a pool of $2.1 million authorized only for one-year projects.

Now, the school board has directed the remaining $940,332 for one-year expenses toward technology advancements in county schools.

But the board also approved more than $2.5 million in administrative, personnel and program cuts, including $15,000 in at-risk and dropout student services, $1.3 million elementary school improvement grants and $120,000 school-family liaison services - all of which elicited strong dissent from some community members.

"I'm disappointed there has been no outcry for the apparent loss of the elementary school grant money," which was used for elementary level reading and math programs, said Jenny Belliotti, of Hagerstown, at the school board's public hearing Monday night.

"We aren't going away. We'll be back next year," said board member Ed Hayes, who endorsed the program throughout the budget process, at Tuesday night's meeting.

In addition, the board approved using money from one of the state poverty grants to fund the at-risk and liaison services that were cut from the operating budget.

"Unfortunately, we have not been able to fund the entire proposed budget. Therefore, we have not been able to fund all the needs of the students and the school system," said board member Dori Nipps. "I'm OK with this budget. I'm not pleased with it."

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